The Ship of Brides
I've only read one other book by Moyes--the deftly handled Me Before You.
The war bride phenomenon is fascinating. Men and women thrown together in circumstances of heightened emotions. Men far from home and grateful for feminine companionship; women falling in love with men they barely know; rushed weddings; women waiting and hoping their new husbands would survive the brutality of war.
The Ship of Brides is the story of four Australian brides who are among the 655 women who leave their homes and families in Australia and depart on a six week voyage to join the men (with whom they have spent very little time) and their families in England. Whatever their reasons, for these young women to leave behind country, family, and friends required courage.
Moyes did her research, and the Acknowledgements at the beginning of the novel gives a list of the sources she used, including unpublished journals. The fact that Moyes' grandmother was one of the Australian war brides that embarked on the aircraft carrier the HMS Victorious in 1946 (the same aircraft carrier as the fictitious brides) gives a greater sense of verisimilitude.
The prologue, set in contemporary times, was slow and a bit confusing, and I wondered how it would fit into the book's plot. However, when the story moved to 1946 and settled down to the individual women, my interest picked up.
At first, it seems that Maggie is the main protagonist, but that is misleading. Jean and Avice each have an important purpose, but Frances is the key character, a quiet, unassuming nurse whose service in the Pacific theater has shown her the horrors of war. She also has secrets that she wants to keep hidden.
The plot moves back and forth in time (but still within the war years), giving up a little about the situations that led the brides to their current situations, yet keeping back all but the whispers of circumstances still undisclosed. Paul Simon's phrase "hints and allegations" just swept through my head....
I did enjoy the book and the extracts from non-fictional sources even if The Ship of Brides didn't feel as polished or as compelling as Me Before You.
Read in Aug.; blog post scheduled for Oct. 6
Historic Fiction. 2004 (original publ.); Oct. 28, 2014. Print length: 496 pages.