Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes

On October 27, 1945 the HMS Victorious set off for the first of three trips to transport WWII servicemen and war brides. Jojo Moyes's own grandmother was one of those brides, traveling from Australia to England to be with her husband. According to the acknowledgements, her story and others inspired The Ship of Brides, which was originally released back in 2005 but has recently been reissued by Penguin.

The war has ended and out of the remaining war brides in Australia, Margaret, Avice, Jean, and Frances have each been chosen to travel to England aboard HMS Victory in a push to reunite them with their husbands. They aren't the first to travel to England and they aren't the last, but they're the lucky ones who won't have to wait any longer. The four couldn't be more different from one another and yet they find themselves bunkmates on the newly outfitted aircraft carrier. Margaret is massively pregnant; Jean, at sixteen, is among the youngest on board; Frances, a former nurse, is quite closemouthed about her past; and Avice is a society girl who'd hoped for roommates of a different class. But they each have one thing in common: they've left behind everything they know to start a new life. 

Decades later, one of these women gets the shock of a lifetime when she stumbles upon a reminder of that fateful journey. 

I rather liked The Ship of Brides, and I really wasn't sure that I would at the start. Mainly because I'd looked forward to it for so long but never really felt I was in the right mood for it. But I forced myself to sit down with it one evening and soon found myself quite taken in by the story.

This one is very different from the other titles I've read by Moyes thus far. To be honest, that was appealing at this stage as both One Plus One and Silver Bay had a lot of common elements between them. And while there is some of that in The Ship of Brides, the premise and the WWII setting couldn't have been more different!

This was most definitely a piece of history that was fairly new to me. Not so much the war brides aspect but the fact that such a massive undertaking to deliver these women to their new homes had occurred. Moyes does a wonderful job blending in historical quotes from real men and women concerning the actual HMS Victorious mission, setting the scene mood of the novel quite nicely. Each of the characters came across as genuine in both emotion and setting, making it easy to imagine them as real people. Bringing the story forward to the present day was also a nice touch that added another layer of believability for me as the reader.

Ship of Brides may not be what you've come to expect from Moyes but it is a wonderful historical read, perfect for anyone who enjoys WWII fiction.

Rating: 4/5

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