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Next to Love by Ellen Feldman
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Next to Love (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Ellen Feldman

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2837139,575 (3.79)24
Member:MEENIEREADS
Title:Next to Love
Authors:Ellen Feldman
Info:Picador USA (2011), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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Next to Love by Ellen Feldman (2011)

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I don't guess this one was my cup of tea just did not like it at all . Just boring to me sorry .
  phonelady61 | Mar 22, 2014 |
Originally posted here.

Next to Love is much larger in scope than I anticipated, again because I tend to avoid reading blurbs in full, since they occasionally have spoilers. Anyway, I expected this to be a novel about WWII, and certainly that's a big chunk of it, but, even more, this is a story about war and its effect on families, especially women.

The novel tells the story of three different women, friends, Babe, Grace and Millie. All three get married before their husbands ship off to fight in Europe. These women are all different in their situations, their motivations and their expectations. Two of them do not get their husbands back; one does. One can recover from her husband's loss; one cannot. Even the woman who got her husband back discovered that just because he returned, it does not mean he is the same man that you married years before.

The perspective of these women waiting at home is entirely engrossing to me. They get jobs, do their part in the war effort, knowing, whether they will it or not, that they will have to give up their new found independence when the men come home. The whole concept of war brides, of all of the marriages that take place as men are about to set out for war, is entirely absurd to me. I mean, I get the desire for closeness and comfort, but the men are going to come back so completely different, and, in most cases, the courtship is so rushed they hardly knew one another in the first place.

Once the war ends, Feldman treats us to a view of post-war America, incorporating the fight for civil rights and the effects of WWII upon the next generation. The women's kids are now old enough to be dating and getting married and holding down jobs, and they are so completely messed up. The loss of their fathers or the mother's reaction to his loss is something that affects them permanently, or so it seems.

Next to Love is not a happy story. Actually, it left me rather emotionally ravaged at several points. Both of my favorite characters are raped (one instance might not be, but it was definitely in the date rape family). Even the most solid relationships have serious issues that never really get resolved. This is not a book to read when you're hoping to be uplifted.

What I love about WWII historical fiction is how many tales there are to tell, and, many as I've read, I still learn something new in every book. Next to Love makes a wonderful addition to this category, especially because of its focus upon the role of women. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
This was a novel of woman's friendships from just before WW2 up to the mid 60's.
Wonderful character development and interesting telling of the societal changes during this
time in history. I enjoyed this book as much as her other ones I read,Lucy and The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank. ( )
  MEENIEREADS | Jan 6, 2013 |
WWII without the fluff. An honest look at the lives of three women and their families, during these tumultuous years... And those that follow. A very realistic exploration of the love, loss, and scars that become the memory of war.

Feldman has a very interesting, intriguing writing style that keeps you wondering if you missed something along the way- then alas, she ties it all together. You'll want to keep reading just to get to these 'ah-ha' moments throughout.

I've read quite a bit WWII fiction, but had yet to read a portrayal
quite like this, from such a perspective. The careful, intricate weaving of these lives left me aching for them and their struggles.

You won't skim any of this read. It's that good. 4.5 stars. ( )
  Pammers22 | Dec 11, 2012 |
Ellen Feldman's last book, Scottsboro, made my "best of" list in 2009 and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. It was an amazing, thought-provoking book. So I was very happy to see that she had a new book out called. Set during and after the Second World War, Next to Love follows the lives of three women as they watch their husbands leave to fight in the war, with some never returning home and those that do are changed in fundamental ways. Feldman is both a talented writer and a gifted storyteller, so her three women and their stories make for a compelling read. There's Millie who, having lost both her parents young, feels that she can't possibly lose her charming husband, and Grace, who puts great store in the life she and her husband Charlie imagine they'll share when he returns to her and the baby. The greatest focus and most interesting character is Babe who, despite growing up in the wrong part of town, nonetheless falls in love with a boy from a good family and they continue their relationship despite the disapproval of many. Babe is well aware of how and why she doesn't (and cannot) fit in and be accepted and while it gives her an edge, she doesn't allow it to make her bitter. The war gives her more freedom than she could have expected, allowing her to work at the Western Union, instead of cleaning houses or at the five and dime. She's determined to make her own path, even if it's well within the boundaries of her small Massachussetts town.

I had a hard time putting this book down. It's highly readable but, in the end, it lacks the fire and bite of Scottsboro. This is a straight up historical novel with sympathetic characters doing their best at a turbulent point in history. I enjoyed it, but doubt I'll still be thinking about it in a few days. I hope this isn't a direction that Feldman has decided to go, although it's probably a much more salable book than Scottsboro. ( )
1 vote RidgewayGirl | Oct 25, 2012 |
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Epigraph
War…next to love, has most captured the world’s imagination.
-Eric Partridge, 1914
It’s all so terrible, so awful, that I constantly wonder how “civilization” can stand war at all.
-Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1944
They fed us with all this crap about John Wayne and being a hero and the romance of war. . . . They set up my generatin, they set us up for that war.
-Ron Kovic, 1986
In the last 3,421 years of recorded history, only 268 have seen no war.
-Will Durant, 1968
Dedication
For Andre Bernard
First words
Prologue:
July 17, 1944:
In the year and a half Babe Huggins has worked for Western Union, she has been late only once before.
Book One: 1941-1944:
December 1941:
Babe does not take long to learn the dirty little secret of war. It is about death. Everyone knows that. But it is also about sex. The two march off to battle in lockstep.
Quotations
Then the war came, the weddings began piling up like crashed cars on an icy highway. . .
Millie always knew how to get what she wanted. Her parents’ deaths taught her to want what she could get.
Only a fool would want to go back to that office reeking of death and grief. But it was her own front line in the war, and for three years she womaned it with a singleness of purpose.
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Follows the stories of three young couples whose lives are irrevocably changed in the years following World War II, a period during which they struggle with difficult losses and witness profound transformations in American culture.

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