Yesterday I finished a book, a book that had a good story but also contained some beautiful writing. The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy is set on the island of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands closer to Normandy than to England. Another bestseller, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society was set in the same place. And both are WWII stories.
The Soldier's Wife is a slice of life of a handful of people who live on the island during the German occupation. The story covers the years from 1940 to 1946. Vivienne de la Mare lives with her two young daughters and her mother-in-law in her husband's family home. Her husband is in the British army, stationed in England. Theirs is a marriage that has turned cold, and it is Eugene's mother, Evelyn, who misses him most.
German officers move into the house next door, and Vivienne loses her heart to one of them. She is also fiercely loyal to her family and friends on the island while keeping her love affair secret. She is torn between her love for Gunther and her love for home and family.
As the story moves through the war years, we see four-year-old Millie and fourteen-years-old Blanche grow and change. We watch Evelyn deteriorate mentally from old age and worry about her soldier son. We live the story through Vivienne's eyes as she narrates the events in present tense. I found the use of present tense appealing, as it seemed to bring the reader immediately into the action or the scene.
The story twists and turns and portrays the hardships and the horrors of living in an occupied country, but it also gives a vivid picture of what being oppressed does to the human psyche. Both weakness and strength in personalities are brought out by the circumstances of the times.
The ending was not quite what I expected and I will say no more than that, should you want to read it yourself. It's worth reading this book for the beautiful writing. Margaret Leroy has written five previous novels. She lives in London. I intend to look for her other books.