When I Was Yours

Written by Lizzie Page
Review by Valerie Adolph

Vivienne is a naïve teenager living in London during the Great War, later known as the First World War. During the Second World War she is married to Edmund Lowe and living in the village of Hinkley forced to face the frightening prospect of having to accommodate an evacuee from London. To her surprise the evacuee, Pearl, fits into her life rather well, despite the disapproval of Edmund and, after all, he disapproves of almost everything.

The older sister of Olive, a gifted and outgoing artist, Vivienne is the quiet one who follows her sister into the world of arts and culture early in the Great War and then then finds her metier driving ambulances through the dangers of war-torn France as she helps to bring the wounded from the trenches back home. But during the Second World war Vivienne is a mousy, insecure wife wondering how she ever came to marry the dominating but remote Edmund, whose snobbish parents had not thought her good enough for him. The evacuee Pearl, with the unfettered thinking of a child, helps her find answers to deeply buried questions.

In chapters alternating between the years of the two wars, the author presents us with an engrossing story of one woman’s life during both wars, but there is a frustration for the reader as the protagonist continues to be so dim and clueless – vulnerability can only be stretched so far before it becomes annoying. That said, the attitudes – to the war, to women, to foreigners, to people of other religions – are well-illustrated, and their far-reaching effects are clearly shown. Also, and importantly at this time, the author points out the demoralizing effects of shortages of food and basic necessities, making us realize that previous generations have suffered deprivations, often much worse than ours.