"War... next to love, has most captured the world’s imagination."
Eric Partridge, British lexicographer, 1914
A story of love, war, loss, and the scars they leave, Next to Love follows the lives of three young women and their men during the years of World War II and its aftermath, beginning with the men going off to war and ending a generation later, when their children are on the cusp of their own adulthood.
Set in a small town in Massachusetts, the novel follows three childhood friends, Babe, Millie, and Grace, whose lives are unmoored when their men are called to duty. And yet the changes that are thrust upon them move them in directions they never dreamed possible—while their husbands and boyfriends are enduring their own transformations. In the decades that follow, the three friends lose their innocence, struggle to raise their children, and find meaning and love in unexpected places. And as they change, so does America—from a country in which people know their place in the social hierarchy to a world in which feminism, the Civil Rights movement, and technological innovations present new possibilities—and uncertainties. And yet Babe, Millie, and Grace remain bonded by their past, even as their children grow up and away and a new society rises from the ashes of the war.
Beautifully crafted and unforgettable, Next to Love depicts the enduring power of love and friendship, and illuminates a transformational moment in American history.
©2011 Ellen Feldman (P)2011 Random House
Narrative makes the world go round.
In the first two hours, I found some story elements and especially their narration over-the-top, though they expressed the sexual politics of the time; however, the narrative and even the narrator steadied as the novel progressed.
The meticulous depiction of daily life detail of three women and their family and friendship ties across 20 years with changing intersections of gender, class, race, and ethnicity may not appeal to all. Even if this appeals, the insight characters have into their situations is a bit incredible ??? perhaps if the narrative was spun from the viewpoint of a an elderly character reflecting back on the stories, that insight may have fitted better.
I???ve come across many good (and more not so good!) novels treating the social impact of war on British society ??? but not so mnay from an American point of view ???-so this was of high interest to me. Sometimes it takes a historical fiction facade to deal with contemporary realities, and perhaps this was the chief intent of the author. I would have preferred the simply but well drawn porttraits of the women, with room left for 21st century insight of my own. Still, (after the first couple of hours of outrage-provoking scenes), this is overall a quiet, thoughtful listen, and a real contribution to the literature on the social impact of war - an extra star for that.
I wonder if I would have enjoyed this book more if I read the text. Especially for the first half of the novel I was distracted by the overwrought reading of the narrator. She sounded as if she was continually wringing her hands. The book deals with emotional scars left by war, but the topic is more effective if presented in an understated way. Having just finished The Rules of Civility, this suffered by comparison.
In addition, the jumping back and forth in time as the same incidents were related from the point of view of the different women was a little confusing. Maybe using different narrators (as was done for the wonderful recording of The Help) would have been a good idea.
The book explores the effects of WW II on three women and their children, during, and in the years after, the war. While too many topics are attempted to be completely successful with all of the threads, the author does write well and I found myself caring about the characters. The title comes from a quote of lexicographer Eric Partridge: ???War???next to love, has captured the world???s imagination.??? This novel is a pleasing foray of imagination into the struggles of loving well under war conditions.
I wouldn't recommend this book, because I'm not the biggest fan of rape scenes and this one was disturbing thrown into this book at the beginning. I also had a hard time really getting into the characters, because I never felt like their friendship was developed. They were mostly arguing with one another or thinking the worst of each other. Never finding comfort in each other.
It was very dramactic, and some of the conversations came off very accusatory, while I imagined if I were reading it to myself, I would have read it completely differently and it would have affected the story.
If the actors and actresses were favorites of mine, I would see this as a movie.
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