The Soldier’s Wife
By Margaret Leroy
Completed September 4, 2011
War has come to tiny Guernsey, an island in the English Channel that during World War II was a strategic landing site for the German armed forces. In Margaret Leroy’s novel, The Soldier’s Wife, Vivienne de la Mare faces indecision: to evacuate the island with her two daughters, or stay there and endure the German occupation. She chose the latter – a fateful decision for her.
As the Germans settle on Guernsey, they live in houses left empty by evacuees, including the house closest to Vivienne’s property. It’s there that she meets Gunther, and as the war progresses, Gunther and Vivienne fall in love and begin a secret affair. For Vivienne, Gunther offers everything her soldiering husband does not – companionship, excitement and intimacy. However, when Vivienne’s daughter starts to help a Belorussian war prisoner, Vivienne sees war’s atrocities, and she begins to question her involvement with Gunther.
The first three-quarters of The Soldier’s Wife moves effortlessly. Margaret Leroy pulls the reader in with tales of love and survival. I was enthralled with how islanders managed some level of co-existence with the Germans, focusing on growing crops and darning socks. I was less interested in Vivienne and Gunther’s love story, which may be why I was unenthused with the story’s ending.
My main quibble with the story, though, is the title. I wonder why it was chosen for this book. In my opinion, Vivienne was not really a soldier’s wife. Certainly, her husband was away at war, but she didn’t identify herself with him. Vivienne was more a soldier’s lover, if anything, though I would have preferred a title that identified Vivienne as her own – a resourceful, caring woman who endured World War II with grace and charity. It’s this woman who is at the center of my recommendation for The Soldier’s Wife – an interesting selection for book clubs and fans of historical fiction. ( )
FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.