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The Soldier's Wife by Pamela Hart
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The Soldier's Wife

by Pamela Hart

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The Soldier’s Wife is an intimate tale about World War I. The book is the 30th one to be written by NSW Premier’s Award-winner, Pamela Hart (who has also published children’s and adult fantasy novels under the name, Dr. Pamela Freeman). This is ultimately an emotional story about love, change, hope, grief and longing.

The narrative is mostly told from the perspective of Ruby Hawkins. She is a naïve girl who used to work in her parent’s shop in Bourke. After a whirlwind romance to the dreamy Jimmy she decides to relocate to Sydney so they can get married and she can see him off before he goes over to fight at Gallipoli.

In Sydney, Ruby undergoes a massive transformation after she takes a job in a timber merchant’s yard. It’s a man’s world but Ruby is determined and she learns a lot of lessons along the way. Eventually she blossoms into a smart and strong, independent woman who seems before her time.

The war wages on and Ruby is comforted by Jimmy’s letters that are mostly filled with love and yearning. There is some grief and tragedy along the way and it is interesting to see how the characters deal with this. Hart does an excellent job with the characterisation here, as she really gets at the underlying emotions felt by all of the individuals. She also excels in providing historical context to the setting because it makes us understand what women could and couldn’t do and Ruby’s journey and internal struggle is very much framed by all of this.

The ending to The Soldier’s Wife is a little too swift. But that said, the rest of the book is very detailed and engaging as it really gets at the true cost of war. The Soldier’s Wife is full of characters that feel real and are easy to relate to. It’s a beautifully-written romance and historical fiction book that is entertaining and hits more high notes than low. ( )
  natsalvo | Jun 7, 2015 |
After the moving tributes of ANZAC Day this year, one hundred years after the Gallipoli campaign, I was in the mood to read something set in the time period that celebrated the ANZAC spirit. I couldn’t have picked a better book than The Soldier’s Wife. The book not only chronicles what it was like for those left on the home front, it also goes into detail of the horrors of war and how they affect families and loved one. Plus, it celebrates some girl power in Ruby, a young woman who finds her strength and determination when she is left alone in Sydney after her very new husband departs for the front. Ruby is a country girl from Bourke and the city is new to her – the smells, constant movement and the never-ending buildings. After Jimmy leaves on a troop ship, she organises a place to board and sets off looking for a job.

Ruby finds a place as a bookkeeper as a timber yard, thanks to her experience in her family’s drapers. A timber yard is not the usual place for women to work in 1915 and Ruby finds things uncomfortable at first amongst the men. However, she finds strengths in not only being able to do the work well, but helping new friend Maree and being a voice of calm and reasoning when tragedy strikes her boss’ family. Ruby grows into a strong, admirable woman before the reader’s eyes, but is it enough to sustain her when she gets her own bad news?

It’s at this point that the narrative changes from being about Ruby, relatively free, to being someone’s wife. Having only a couple of weeks of marriage to compare to, life is not easy being half of a pair, especially when the physical and mental scars of war are so fresh. Will Ruby give up her freedom to be a dutiful wife, or does her new life mean more to her?

It was easy to like Ruby and I enjoyed seeing her personal growth from wide eyed country kid to a force to be reckoned with (yet retaining her femininity). Pamela Hart stops Ruby from being the perfect woman in that she slips up sometimes with some razor-sharp verbal barbs. I thought that this made Ruby more realistic and well…conflict does make for an exciting story. I really didn’t know which way Ruby was going to turn towards the end of the book as events cumulate in a race against time. I liked not knowing what would happen – would the ending be happy or sad? Would Ruby end up together with Jimmy (or someone else) or alone? It made the story more exciting and delayed my bedtime somewhat!

Pamela Hart’s research for The Soldier’s Wife was both detailed and interesting. I enjoyed reading about Lassetter’s, a wonderful shopping emporium in Sydney and how the timber was transported. And her words? Well, the pages just flew by. This is a book that you won’t want to tear yourself away from – it contains a myriad of feelings and events that makes for compulsive reading.

Thanks to Hachette Australia and The Reading Room for the ARC, it was a delight to read.

http://samstillreading.wordpress.com ( )
  birdsam0610 | May 1, 2015 |
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If you loved Fiona McIntosh's NIGHTINGALE, you will love this sweeping historical love story set in Australia during World War One. Newlyweds Ruby and Jimmy Hawkins are sure their love will survive the trauma and tragedy of war. Amid the desperate battles raging in Gallipoli, Jimmy dreams of the future they planned together. In Sydney, Ruby reads his romantic letters full of love and longing. But as weeks slip into months Ruby must forge her own new life. When she takes a job at a city timber merchant's yard, she is thrown into a man's world fraught with complications. And as the lives of those around her begin to shatter, Ruby must change if she is to truly find her way. Is she still the same woman Jimmy fell in love with? Inspired by the true story of the author's own family history, THE SOLDIER'S WIFE is a heart-soaring story of passion, love and loss and learning how to live when all you hold dear is threatened. 'Evokes WWI Sydney to the point where the reader can almost feel the salty wind blowing off the harbour as the troops are shipped out through the Heads'… (more)

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