Tuesday, August 2, 2011

War Brides by Helen Bryan

Rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: July 30, 2011

1939. As Britain prepares for war with Germany, the lives of five young women are about to collide in the sleepy Sussex village of Crowmarsh Priors. New Orleans belle Evangeline Fontaine has eloped with a handsome English naval officer as a means of following her true love to France. Alice Osbourne, jilted by Evangeline's husband, is resigned to a life as the village spinster. Elsie Pigeon has only known life in London's East End but at fifteen finds herself evacuated to Crowmarsh Priors as a maid for the forbidding Lady Marchmont. Young Jewish bride Tanni Joseph has fled Austria with her husband and arrives in the village with her newborn son, not knowing if her family are alive or if she will ever see them again. Frances Falconleigh, madcap debutante, is sent in disgrace to her see out the war with her godmother, Lady Marchmont , But her high spirits ultimately lead her into danger when she tries to help her friend Tanni. Together they will face hardship, passion and danger, forming bonds of friendship that will inspire a desperate plan, And, fifty years later, an act of revenge...

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*** NOTE: It has come to my attention that War Brides has been re-edited since the release of this review. I will not be returning to the piece, but encourage readers to understand the issues I noted may not apply to more recent editions of the novel.

*** NOTE: This review contains spoilers. Please take heed and proceed at your own risk. 

Trifecta! Punctuation, spelling and formatting mistakes all in one publication! I’m sorry folks, but I can’t ignore it. Throughout the text I found double periods and significant blunders in both spelling and grammar. Some chapter headings were placed immediately after the last sentence of the preceding chapter and others began a full two pages later. This was not a finished product and I can’t ignore how much these errors impacted my experience with War Brides.

Continuity, or the lack there of, was another issue I noted in Helen Bryan’s work. “Evangeline Fairfax’s coming-out ball was the last party before Lent and everyone knew was going to be splendid.” Evangeline’s last name is Fontaine. I suppose you could make a stretch by saying she eventually marries Richard Fairfax, but as the story is written in the present tense I can’t give much weight to the argument. This book has a very large cast and I’m sorry, but I don’t see how the audience can be expected to keep everyone straight with this kind of execution. 

Plot development in the novel was almost nonexistent. Tanni discovers she is pregnant, has a normal pregnancy and holds her son in less than two pages. As a mother, that was difficult to wrap my head around and made it incredibly difficult feel any sort of empathy for her situation. Evangeline drugging Richard was similarly simplistic. One minute she is planning her elopement from New Orleans and the next Richard’s mother is announcing their marriage and arrival in England. What happened to his being in love with and engaged to Alice? Was the drug supposed to be some sort of voodoo meant to make him forget all sense of duty and obligation? I don’t understand.

To be fair, most of the dialogue is fine and I am all for colloquialism in literature, but there’s a line and I feel Bryan crossed it. “’Well, I can’t ‘ardly bear to think of it ‘appenin’ all over again,’ I says to ‘er. ‘It can’t,’ I says to ‘er. ‘But it will,’ she says, certain as anyfink. ‘I fink you can count on it, Mrs Pigeon.’” As a reader, I felt such passages awkward and disruptive to the story at hand. I found them annoying and I’m not sure that’s the impression Bryan was hoping to achieve. 

In terms of content, War Brides should have been a home run, but the execution was so unpolished that I found it impossible to appreciate the narrative beneath. 

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Here's to you Laurent, Richard and you Frances, fifty years and they say that the sorry old war is done and over with. Folks who weren't there say that...
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Marg said...

It's a shame that the book has all of these issues because it sounds like my kind of book! As soon as I saw the title I was interested in it.

BTW, welcome to book blogging!

Erin said...

Thanks for the welcome. :)

The plot of the novel isn't bad if you can get past the technical errors. I think it would have been a decent book if it had undergone a few rounds of proofreading.

Jenny Elyse Becker said...

"anyfink"--that's one for the ages. Good grief!

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