The Ship of Brides
If you like stories that pull you in quickly, are filled with emotional drama, and provide a vivid atmosphere of the times, you won’t do better than Jojo Moyes’s The Ship of Brides. Set just after World War II, this is a fictionalized account of the transport of hundreds of wartime brides from Australia to England aboard an aircraft carrier filled with Marines. Many of the women have spent very little time with their husbands and almost all are leaving behind the only life they’ve ever known. The six-week journey of fear, excitement, irritation, and boredom will end in disaster for some and a lifetime of happiness for others, but it’s the getting there that this novel plays on.
While the novel is bookended with events in 2002, the main focus is the journey of four dissimilar young women forced to share a cabin: Margaret, who is pregnant; Jean, sixteen and immature; Avice, spoiled and snobby; and Frances, a former nurse with secrets that may destroy her future. Though very different, the four become friends who must learn to rely on one another because, simply, they have no one else. Meanwhile, the captain, charged with keeping the women safe on his last voyage, does his best to separate the men from the women and keep order among all those looking forward to going home. Even the ship itself becomes a character as she limps along on her way to being decommissioned after the war.
The novel moves among the points of view seamlessly and evokes the era with descriptive details that sets the reader firmly on board. I was drawn in by the characters’ heartfelt emotions and found myself enmeshed in their lives with Moyes’ rich language. What an adventure both these women and I had! Definitely one for the keeper shelf.