Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Monday, July 11, 2011

BEA Book Review: Next to Love

by Ellen Feldman
304 pages

From the epigraph:
War ... next to love, has most captured the world's imagination. - Eric Partridge, 1914

While meandering through the aisles on the last day of BEA the cover of this book caught my eye. When I saw that the author was at the booth signing the last few copies of the book I immediately rushed over to see what it was all about. During my chat with the author I discovered that the book was set during World War II and I knew that I had to read it.

Turns out, this is THE BEST BOOK that I brought home from my BEA/BBC trip!

About the Book

The story centers around three female friends who got married at the start of WWII. Each of their husbands is sent off to war but not all of them come home again. Can these women maintain their friendship when some are widowed and others are not? For those whose husbands did return, what happens when the man you married is not the same man who came back to you after the war? The book relates the tragedy and triumph the war years but it doesn't stop there. It goes on to explore what happened in the lives of these women in the 20-odd years that followed.

Why I Read It

A few years back I sat down with my grandma and helped her move all her photos out of the old, crumbling album where they'd been for 50 years and into a new album. During that project Gram shared tons of stories with me about her childhood and early married life. I knew the war stories - those were common tales in our house - but much of the rest was new to me. By the time we finished I felt like I knew Gram as a young woman rather than only as my grandma. That's one of the reasons I was so drawn to this book - it gives me insight into the WWII generation and helps me see them as young people in the heyday of their lives instead of the senior citizens they are today.

My Thoughts

I was sucked into this book from the very first pages. It begins in the middle of the war with one of the main characters getting news that several young men from town died in battle. From there the story goes back in time to the first days of the war. That scene from the start of the book? It actually happens about halfway through - I loved that, since I had expected it to be closer to the end.

The point-of-view switches between the three main characters, sometimes covering the same event from more than one perspective. Again, I loved that - it was interesting to see how the same situation could be viewed so differently by these women.

Reading this book gave me insight into what the lives of my grandparents generation were actually like, both for the good and for the bad. For that alone I would have enjoyed the book, but add in realistic characters, a compelling story, and great writing, and you've got an all-around fantastic book.

Your Thoughts

Have you read this one yet or seen other reviews?  It comes out in hardcover on July 26 - will you be buying a copy?

Also, I want your opinion on the cover. The image at the top is the ARC cover, the one that I have. The image down here is from the hardcover.  Which one do you like better? I LOVE the ARC one - it's what drew me to the book in the first place. I'm not a big fan of the new cover. To be honest, I'd have walked right past it ...


Dizzy C said...

New to your blog and following on Twitter (could not see google follow option).

Lovely review. This sounds like my kind of book.

I prefer the 1st cover.


Mystica said...

This period of history is one I love to read about. This book will go into my TBR

Kay said...

I'm really looking forward to reading this book. I've been seeing it around in mailbox posts and such. Good to hear your reactions and I loved the story about your Grandma. I am very drawn to WWII homefront stories. My Mom told me a lot about that time of her life before she died. She was a young senior in high school when my Dad was shipped to the Pacific. He had been a freshman in college. Spent his 19th birthday on the ship. Mom wrote him every day. When he returned 3 years later, they married. So, these are special stories to me.

I like the top cover best personally. I've got this preordered for my Kindle. Again, very much looking forward to it.

Kailana said...

This sounds right up my alley! Thanks for the review!!

Valerie said...

Seems like a wonderful story. I definitely prefer the first cover -- the second one seems too bland. too bad they changed it. I never got to hear WWII stories from my relatives because none of them served -- just different life stories were shared (i.e. my maternal grandparents were dust bowl migrants, a lot like Grapes of Wrath). I'm writing this title down -- perhaps in the next edition they'll change the cover back to the original!

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Oh! I didnt see this one at BEA! While I am kind of burned out on the war theme in books, I never tire of books on friendships so this captures my attention.

I love the time yo had with your grandmother going through the pictures and the stories. What a treasure! It makes me wish I would have been in tuned to doing things like that when my grandmother was alive.

I prefer the ARC cover. It drew me in right away where the actual published cover looks too much like many of the other book covers I see around.

bermudaonion said...

This sounds fabulous! Can you imagine what it was like to have your husband/son/brother off at war back then when the only communication was an occasional letter? I don't think I could have stood it.

Ondrej from Most Popular Books said...

War is something so stupid and unreal that none of those who didn't participate can fully understand it.

They can (and ought to) try though, and this sounds like a decent try.

Amanda said...

This sounds like one I'd like too. I'm such a sucker for WWII books. I actually like both covers although the second one is a bit brighter, which I like, but I like the photos with ribbon on the first.

Heather J. said...

Dizzy C - Thanks, and welcome!

Mystica - I hope you get a chance to read it.

Kay - Thanks for telling me about your parents - I'm sure you loved to hear her stories!

Kailana - You are welcome. :)

Sheila - I sort of stumbled on this one at BEA. The title didn't catch my attention but the cover sure did.

bermudaonion - I CAN.NOT imagine. It would have been nervewracking!

Ondrej - I agree that we ought to try, and this book was a great way for me to do just that.

Amanda - Interesting about the brightness of the covers. I guess what I didn't like is that the 2nd cover looks like just about every other book out there.

Teresa said...

I'm with you, I would pick up based on the ARC cover alone. The other one might get me to look at it but its just not the same.

Alyce said...

I agree with you about the covers. I like the vintage feel of the first one, and that it's more obvious what the story is about. This is the first I've heard of this book, so I'll keep an eye out for it.

sanjana raju said...

hi it is really good!!!
im new to ur blog and i like it!
now am a follower of ur blog.
connect with me at my blog

Amused said...

This book sounds wonderful! I think I will need to get a copy. I have to say I like the ARC cover better!

Alyce said...

I got this one in the mail today from the publisher! I'm so glad I saw your review first because now I'm doing the happy dance. :)

Heather J. said...

Teresa - That's exactly what I thought!

Alyce - Ooh I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

sanjana - Welcome!

Amused - Definitely get a copy - it's worth reading.

Alyce - Don't you love it when things work out that way?!

Marg said...

This definitely sounds like my kind of read, and I would definitely have gone for that ARC cover. The actual cover is too generic I think.

Anna said...

I've been waiting for your thoughts on this book! Glad to see you loved it as much as I did. And I agree that the ARC cover is much, much better!

I've linked to your review on War Through the Generations.

Heather J. said...

Marg - generic is the perfect word for it.

Anna - I DID love - yay! Thanks for including it on the WTtG blog.

Susan said...

I totally agree with you about the covers. Its unfortunate that the cover makes the book. But, it does. I was sent the review copy like you from the publicist. I would not have asked for the novel if it wasn't for the recommendations for my group of Jewish friends. Thank you for the post. Good idea for a meme idea;book covers.

Dreamybee said...

I like the ARC cover too. This sounds great...*sigh, adds to TBR list!*

I saw this review the other day and thought it might be something you would like.

Booksnyc said...

I picked this one up at BEA too and am really looking forward to reading it! I was lucky enough to attend an event with the author this week and she discussed what inspired her to write the novel and the research she did in preparation for the novel. It is clear she has a passion for this period of our history and it sounds like that comes through in the writing.

I like the 2nd cover - the airmail envelope captures the fact that the novel is based on letters home from soldiers.

Simcha said...

I also love hearing stories from my grandmother of her life as a young wife, and how she met my grandfather, when he was a soldier. With my encouragement she has actually started writing down these stories and sending them to me, which I am really happy about because it means I'll be able to share them with my kids.
With that said, these kind of books make me way too emotional so I usually end up avoiding them, though it does sounds like a good book.

Amy said...

I loved this book, really loved it. Your story about your time with your grandmother is fantastic that you now have these stories to pass on and that you had that time together. Priceless. Thank you for sharing it.

Somehow as soon as I read the summary of this book, I had to read it and I knew I would like just spoke to me. I love the way Ellen Feldman broke up the book between the 3 women and then by years. I like how sometimes she seemed to go back to a time period she already covered to show us what was going on with one of the other women. And I loved how she started bringing the children, Amy & Pete, into it and gave us their points of view.

My only complaint was I wanted it to be longer, I wanted more!

I prefer the ARC cover. I love that cover. The first time I saw the hardcover image, I wondered what it was, where it came from and was surprised that it was the cover for the hardcover book.

Heather J. said...

Susan - I hope you enjoy it a much as I did!

Dreamybee - I'll check that one out - thanks for mentioning it.

Booksync - Ooh I'm jealous that you got to hear the author speak. I only had a few minutes to chat with her at BEA and of course hadn't read the book yet.

Simcha - I love that your grandmother is willing to write down her stories - what an amazing gift!

Amy - I too loved how she showed the same time period from varying perspectives. I'm glad you loved this one as much as I did!

Nan said...

I'm with you. I wouldn't pick up the cover with the woman. The first one is much more evocative of the time, and it seems to go better with what you've written about it. So, it seems to me they made a big mistake if two women, thirty years apart in age wouldn't buy that book based on the cover.

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