Here's another great book to add to your inter-generational book club! I'm reviewing Ellen Gable's Julia's Gifts on behalf of myself and my YA-reader-daughter.
I bought this for my daughter for Christmas and she devoured it within a couple weeks, so I got my hands on it and finished in a couple days. We both hated for it to end! I chose this because we both love historical fiction and wanted to read more about WWI (The Great War.)
Julia Murphy is a smart, strong, sweet, dreamer of a girl who has conjured up in her mind exactly what her future husband must be like, right down to the color and texture of his hair. She even began purchasing Christmas gifts for him (her "beloved") since she was 17! So far she has stored away a Miraculous Medal, 2 pairs of socks, and a leather pocket journal embossed with a maple leaf on the cover. The story opens at Christmastime 1917, and she has saved up to add a silver pocket watch to her collection of gifts for her future hubby.
She turns 21 in 1918 and feels called to represent her family in joining the war effort since her father is too old and her younger brothers too young to enlist. Julia transitions from a fairly sheltered oldest daughter, coming of age in Philadelphia, never having been farther from home than the Jersey Shore, to a world-traveler. As a mother, this part of the story was especially moving to me. I was delighted that Julia met some kind and lovely friends along the way. (And we get a really cool piece of news at the end: some of those friends are going to be main characters in future "Great War, Great Love" books by Ellen Gable!) The importance of friendships, selflessness, and a heart open to God's will--there are so many beautiful lessons that this story subtly imparts upon YA readers.
As far as maturity level, be aware that there is a little bit of (necessary) violence and gore, appropriately so since this is a book set in a time of war. My daughter is especially sensitive to anything bloody, but she had no problem at all reading Julia's Gifts. There are appropriate and tastefully-depicted scenes about leg amputations, pus-filled wounds, mustard gas skin blisters, and even outbreaks of a stomach-flu. It is shocking what little training these Red Cross volunteers received before their "baptism by fire." The romantic scenes do not go beyond very chaste embraces and one or two "kisses on the lips," so it is appropriate for almost any age in that regard.
My daughter's favorite part was when Major Winslow wrote that he needed a time piece. Ok, I admit, I didn't immediately realize "Julia's Gifts" were the yearly Christmas purchases she was storing away, lol! I had assumed the title referred to the main character's many virtues and selflessness in caring for injured soldiers. So there is a cute twist regarding the gifts, developed throughout the story, that YA readers will delight in realizing.
Do not hesitate to purchase Ellen Gable's Julia's Gifts for, I'd say an advanced 12-year-old reader and up, or yourself! It is such a sweet historical romance with lots of important life lessons cleverly woven throughout its pages.