War Brides

Written by Helen Bryan
Review by Gwen Sly

War Brides is the story of five young women who come together in a small Sussex village in 1939. From divergent backgrounds they will face pain, hardship, passion and danger, forming a friendship that will last through their lives.

Helen Bryan has created bold and witty characters with strong personalities who narrate, through their individual lives, the story of the Second World War as seen from the home front in England. It begins with the evacuation, continues with the frequent bombing raids as Germany musters on the French coast to launch the anticipated invasion, and follows with the Battle for Britain and the horror and indiscriminate death of civilians, men, women and children. Her description of the aftermath of the devastating Luftwaffe bombing of London is impressive, the atmosphere all too tangible and very harrowing at times.

There is really only one traditional wedding, the preparations for which show the initiative and companionship of sacrifice. Coupons from everyone’s ration books are pooled to ensure enough sugar and butter can be obtained to make the cake and provide all the trimmings. Even the wedding dress is borrowed and the bouquets of bride and maids are of wild flowers, free and bountiful and, more importantly, not rationed. The honeymoon comprises three days on the south coast behind a barbed wire beach.

Absorbing and moving by turns, War Brides is a novel well balanced and skilfully told.