The War Bride

Written by Pamela Hart
Review by Marina Maxwell

Returned Aussie digger Frank waits eagerly on the wharf in Sydney for the arrival of his English bride, Margaret. But she’s not on board the ship, and someone tells him she probably changed her mind at the last minute. Heartbroken, Frank falls back into the arms of former girlfriend, Gladys, with whom he already has a child, Violet.

When Margaret finally arrives shortly afterwards, she is devastated that Frank is not there to meet her, and everything seems to lead to the conclusion he has deliberately abandoned her. She comes to rely on a sergeant, Tom, who finds her a place to live in a boarding house in North Sydney. She pretends to be Frank’s widow, gets an office job and slowly begins her new life in Australia. When Frank and Margaret encounter one another again, they are faced with seemingly insurmountable conflicts and complications.

The scenes of Sydney in 1920 are superb, as is the portrayal of a society much altered by war and when moral codes are beginning to shift only to create new problems. Margaret’s natural English reserve gives her character authenticity as she struggles to come to terms with the more laid-back Australian attitudes and her growing attraction to Tom. As she gains confidence through new experiences and friendships, she blossoms and loses her tendency to suffer from self-doubt. The final crisis brings both heartbreak and joy, but also a resolution that is not without its own challenges.

It is most gratifying to read a romantic novel set in a conservative era that isn’t clichéd and doesn’t avoid various controversial issues, including the difficulties of divorce and the Protestant-Catholic divide. This fresh and sympathetic novel from Pamela Hart has been a sheer delight to read.