January, 1920. Young Englishwoman Margaret Dalton is full of excitement as she arrives in Sydney to begin a new life in the warm, golden land of Australia. She leaves behind the horrors of WWI and can’t wait to see her husband, Frank, after two years of separation.
But when Margaret’s ship docks, Frank isn’t there to greet her and Margaret is informed that he already has a wife . . .
Devastated, Margaret must make a new life for herself in this strange city, but she soon falls in love with its vibrant harbour, sweeping ocean and clean sea breezes. A growing friendship with army sergeant Tom McBride gives her a steady person to rely on. But just as Margaret and Tom begin to grow closer, news arrives that Frank may not have abandoned her. Will Margaret’s life be thrown upside down once again? And where should her loyalties lie: with the old life or with the new?
Inspired by the true stories of war wives who arrived in Australia, THE WAR BRIDE is a gorgeously romantic, inspiring story of love and forgiveness, of healing hurts past, and of making a new home for yourself on the other side of the world, by the author of THE SOLDIER’S WIFE.
I was first introduced to the writing of Australian author Pamela Hart last year, when I received a copy of The Soldier’s Wife, ahead of its publication. I had an inkling that as soon as I opened this book, I would fall in love with Hart’s story and I was right. Again, Hart treats her readers to a stunning historical fiction novel set in 1920’s Australia.
The story opens in 1920, as a young woman named Margaret is apprehensive about making the journey from Britain to Australia by ship. Margaret is going to meet her husband Frank, whom she hasn’t seen for two years. When the ship eventually arrives on Australia’s shores, Margaret has a big shock in store for her. At the docks, Frank is nowhere to be seen. Further investigation into his whereabouts uncovers that he is already married. Abandoned and heartbroken, Margaret picks up the pieces of her broken life and decides to make the best out the situation. She finds a place to stay, gains employment and builds a number of friendships. When love enters her life again, Frank comes back on the scene. It is revealed that Frank’s lack of appearance at the docks that fateful day, was a gross misunderstanding and he still loves Margaret. However, it is soon revealed that Frank has his own secrets. This leads to Margaret feeling torn between her loyalty to Frank, as she is still legally his wife and her new found love interest.
The War Bride is the second novel from an author I have really come to enjoy. Hart does a fine job of drawing her reader into her time period and setting. Hart’s imagery is culpable. I felt like I was stepping on the streets of 1920’s Sydney, every moment I was reading this novel. Hart clearly takes pride in her historical research as her writing shows a depth of understanding of the era, always down to the finest detail. The strongest element of The War Bride has got to be the historical side. It certainly spurred me on to read and learn more about the war brides that arrived on our shores in this era. The War Bride also offers the reader a good examination into the social and moral codes, as well as the increasing shift in public opinion at the time in which the book is set, through Margaret’s journey.
The story itself is a wonderful mix of heartfelt and emotional. This gives Hart a real chance to display her aptitude for getting the human responses to the situations the characters faced in this novel just right. Her characters are well formed, as well as likeable and although they come from an era I was not able to experience firsthand, I still felt like I could step in their shoes.
The romance side of The War Bride is explored beautifully by Hart. It felt genuine and the character’s emotions felt like they were in sync with the story arc. The complications that arose between the three main characters, Margaret, Frank and Tom, added a great sense of appeal to the storyline. It is this segment of the story that kept me reading on, as I was able to consider how it would all pan out at the end. After an unexpected late narrative twist that really pulled at the heartstrings, I felt the novel was given a fitting end, despite being tinged with a scent of sadness.
Love, morality, duty and loyalty are the issues that define Pamela Hart’s second novel. The War Bride is a book that brings into question such themes as divorce, shifting societal attitudes, religion, homosexuality and the overwhelming sense of displacement felt by many in the years following the Great War. The War Bride is a meticulously researched novel that is impossible to put down once you open its cover. Unmissable and highly recommended.