Strengths: Easy to read, light and interesting.
Weaknesses: A lot of pain and compromise. It’s not always rosy.
Why I read it: Reviewed for Net Galley.
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Rating: 8 out of 10
If you liked this, try: The Morland series during World War I deals with similar themes.
Next to Love was an absolute find on Net Galley for me. This was such a cozy book to read despite its content. The book opens as Babe, who is running the Western Union Telegram office in a town in the USA, is rushed off her feet as telegrams flood in from the War Office. The town receives many cases of bad news in just one day, affecting her friends Millie and Grace but not her.
The narrative then moves back in time to before America’s entry into WWII when all three of the girls were still at school. It then goes through each of their marriages and how they received the news that their husband was dead – or alive. But the majority of the book focuses on the period after the war and the issues each woman faces. Babe got Claude back, but he’s not the same man. How can they go on? Grace lost her husband and is extremely devoted to his memory – how can she move on? Some say that Millie is moving on too quickly from her widow status, but is she? Feldman covers many topics that are not generally discussed in books set in this time period – post-traumatic stress disorder, remarriage and grief. She also tells us the story from the female, left behind point of view which is refreshing.
This was a quick read and is very easy to pick up again after a day of work or during busy times. My only small gripe would be that it would be useful to have different fonts for each of the girls’ perspectives – it can occasionally be difficult to keep track of whose story is being told.
This is not a war story, but a story about the personal effects of war. The reactions and thoughts of each characters will remain with you long after the book is closed.
Thank you to Random House for allowing me to read this galley.