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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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2907438,756 (3.78)25
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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The opening of Next to Love is brilliant. A telegraph operator is the first to learn which men from the town have died in war. The story line then backtracks: three women in the town marry in anticipation of WWII, then we follow the couples into the war and out the other side. No one emerges unscathed; what Ellen Feldman does so well is show us the variety of ways in which people can be destroyed or scarred by war and, in some cases, eventually heal. Well-written and well-paced, this book neatly characterizes a slice of American social history. ( )
  SonjaYoerg | Oct 1, 2014 |
So many books set during World War II seem to romanticize the whole time period, so it was refreshing to read a book that portrays both the period, the events of the time and their affect on the people living through those events with something resembling historical accuracy.

The story follows the lives of three high school friends, Babe, Grace and Millie through the war and the twenty years following it. Grace is from the upper crust of their small Massachusetts town and marries the son of one of the town's leading citizens. Bae is from the wrong side of the tracks, but attracts a boy from the very right side and makes her way with intelligence and dignity, mostly leaving her family behind. Millie is just a silly girls who loves the wild younger son of the local druggist and fills her mind with nothing more than making a home and having babies. The three husbands all go off to war together and are a part of the great D-Day invasion, but only Babe's husband comes home. And he comes home with what today we would call PTSD, but which back in the 1950's no one wanted to talk about at all.

The women pick up the pieces of their lives after the war and carry on. Babe copes with a husband who never seems to be able to get over the trauma of his wartime experience. Grace builds a shrine to her fallen husband in the house they used to share and tries to keep the world (and especially other men) at bay. And Millie, who doesn't think too much about anything, almost instantly finds a new husband with just one little problem - he's Jewish.

Throughout the years, what sustains all three is their friendship. Their are fights and squabbles, but the deep love they have for one another keeps them all afloat as they march into the brave post-war world. I thought this was going to be a breezy summer read, but it was much better than that. ( )
  etxgardener | Jun 13, 2014 |
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 |
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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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