Ruby and Jimmy Hawkins are sure their love will survive the trauma and tragedy of war. Amid the desperate battles of the Dardenelles, Jimmy dreams of the future they planned together. In Sydney, Ruby reads his romantic letters full of love and longing.
But as weeks slip into months Ruby must forge her own new life. In Sydney, Ruby must face challenges she could never have imagined as a young country bride. Finding a place inn the city and taking a job as a bookkeeper in a timber merchant’s yard, she discovers that working in a man’s world is fraught with complications.
Just as Ruby starts to find her way, the lives of those around her begin to shatter and she faces her biggest battle yet.
What I thought…
I have to admit to having reservations when I started to read this book – book shops are flooded at the moment with fiction based on WWI. It’s all very timely, but when you read too much of the same thing it all tends to blend in to one homogenous book.
The Soldier’s Wife, however, is to be set apart. It very cleverly describes a society in the midst of forced change and shows the struggle between necessity and social mores in times of trial. The story becomes a commentary on what drives a society to change, and the process and consequences of that change. Pamela Hart errs on the side of caution and doesn’t bang you over the head to make her point – it is subtly done. There is a sense of humour inherent in her writing. Jimmy wrote to Ruby from Cairo after seeing the Great Pyramids thus:
“Mind you, they’re pretty shabby. The Egyptians don’t take very good care of them. Wouldn’t do them any harm to slap a bit of mortar on the dodgy bits.”
The characters are easy to relate to – even 100 years on. As a military wife myself, I could easily identify with the idea of having to be independent while the men are gone, and the struggle to relinquish part of that independence on their return (although, obviously my experiences of that struggle are minor in comparison.)
The Soldier’s Wife is a story of grief and love and hope. The characters stayed with me when I wasn’t reading and I found myself thinking of the book often, and on more than just the storyline – it raised questions on what happened to the lives left behind when the men went to war, the courage it took to get through, and what it means to come back home.
Absolutely worth the read! 9/10
(Book supplied by Hachette NZ)