Title: The Wartime Sisters
Published: January 22nd 2019 by St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, World War II
Goodreads Rating: 4.2 out of 5 Stars
My February reading is off to a great start! We are only nine days into the month and I’m already on book four from my reading list (click HERE for my full February Reading List). Out of the ten books I’m planning on reading this month three of them are historical fictions. For one of these, I’m actually reading along with the Instagram account ‘Pages Ago Book Club’ (@pagesagobookclub) for their inaugural month and their pick for February was The Wartime Sisters. I didn’t read a single historical fiction last month so figured I’d start my month off with one of them. I was able to knock this read out last weekend with some light reading on Friday night and during the day Saturday.
To start I really enjoy historical fiction reads. History was always my favorite subject in school and while I have a number of favorite time periods I enjoy, for whatever reason, World War II intrigues me quite a bit. I think it might have to do with my Grandfather, a person I knew, being a pilot during this time period and it blows my mind how different our worlds are. My quest to education myself on what he might have seen or experience highly influences my curiosity to know more about this time. World War II was also the beginning of what we know to be modern warfare, and the drastic difference between the first War and the second is immerse. It’s all so interesting. But a bit more on the story at hand.
**Fair warning, slight spoilers in this review**
“Two estranged sisters, raised in Brooklyn and each burdened with her own shocking secret, are reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII. While one sister lives in relative ease on the bucolic Armory campus as an officer’s wife, the other arrives as a war widow and takes a position in the Armory factories as a “soldier of production.” Resentment festers between the two, and secrets are shattered when a mysterious figure from the past reemerges in their lives.”
The synopsis for the book is fairly abstract. We don’t get a ton of information around what is to take place besides the time period. Once you start reading the book though, you find yourself less involved in the War itself and more thrown into the daily lives of the women/men left at home. Which is one of the things I liked best about this book, less focus on the brutalities of war and more emphasis on the civilian aspect.
The book itself takes place in two separate decades. In the early 1930’s and during the early 1940’s. We jump back and forth between the two, which I think really adds a layer of mystery to the story. The book also alternates between multiple point of views, which (for me at least) added an additional aspect of personalization and intimacy.
Ruth and Millie are the main characters within the story, though we do also have two additional POVs. They are sisters, three years and opposite appearances and personalities set them apart from one and other. Ruth the eldest wouldn’t be described as pretty. She’s also less emotional and prefers numbers to people. Millie is everything her sister is not, she’s a ‘looker’, friendly, emotional, and people gravitate to her (including any guy Ruth has ever gone on a date with, drama ensures). While the book follows World War II, it mainly focuses on the relationship between the two sisters and the resentment they hold towards one another.
Ruth, has always felt invisible whenever her sister is present and loathes the attention Millie gets, not just from the neighborhood boys but also from her mother. Millie on the other hand struggles to be seen for more than just a pretty face. Their struggle to accept each other and become closer is highly relatable. I have multiple sisters and anyone else with siblings can probably relate to the struggle to be close that can come when you have different personalities, especially when the personality types clash. It also brings up one of the oldest question in the book, “can parents have a favorite child?” Spoiler, in this book the answers is yes.
Am mentioned above, we don’t only get inside the heads of Millie and Ruth. Which btw I just love the name Millie, not that that has anything to do with the book. There are two additional perspectives that we gain throughout the novel as well. One of an opera singer turned cook. The other the base commander’s wife. Both have stories of life before the war and we see how the wars shape their current lives. Both characters are also based on real people, Loigman was able to find stories on. I love the extra perspective towards the War. It focuses less on the facts and more on how the general population’s attitude was towards it. We learn of their fears, their personal struggles, and their need to help their country. It’s also a reminder that even though so many saw combat, there were even more who had to go about their daily lives, craving for any sort of news of their loved one. Makes you really appreciate modern day technology, I’m looking specifically at you FaceTime.
There really are a lot of separate story lines within the 300 pages of this book though and they are all fairly complete. I didn’t find to many ‘lose’ ends or pieces that didn’t quite make sense. The one I found to be, not necessarily my favorite but one that is important, is spurred by the quickness of which false information can be spread. As was seen in the Cold War, seen with the treatment of the Japanese in World War II, and what we still see to this day with the treatment of Middle Easterns. Fear is a motivator and lack of acceptance is a clear theme of the book. Anyone different, or with the perspective of being different is a target, and this book touches on the hurt it can actually bring.
The more I think about this book, the more I want to give it ★★★★★ but I’ll only give it ★★★★ because I wasn’t left craving more from it or had lingering thoughts days after finishing it. It is written well, relatable, researched well (the afterword includes information around where/who the author based her story and characters on), and highlights critical aspects that were directly tied to World War II but that little something extra wasn’t there to make it amazing. Reminder I don’t do half stars.
Being from a second generation military family it also helped me to visual what my grandmother’s experience might have been during this time period and I loved that crazy women so that honestly is a win in my book. I really enjoyed this book and even if you don’t normally like World War II books, I think you’ll enjoy this one. Get it HERE!
What is your favorite time period to read about, especially in historical fiction works??