Saturday, 26 August 2017

I'll Be Seeing You - Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan

Sometimes a book is so delicious you want the world to know about it.... which of course is why I blog.  And if you are a regular reader you know I do not often review new books.  This one is not new, although not old either.  Published in the UK in 2013, I picked it up second-hand for 50p.  Bargain!  I picked it up (good cover, caught my eye) and the thing that made my buy it?  Written by two women who had never even met at the time of publication....... I was intrigued.  At the end of the book, there is a "conversation" with both authors where you can find out more, but please do try not  to read that until you have finished the book!   So.......

Rita and Glory are penpals.  Rita lives in Iowa, and Glory on the coast of Massachusetts.  At a church group for women one afternoon in January 1943, they are finding penpals for women who have family members in service during WW2.  Glory's young husband Robert has not yet left the US, but will be gone shortly.  Rita is around 40 and married to a professor who enlisted for the war effort and he's somewhere in North Africa.  At first, both these woman tread carefully, just generalisations about how they feel, what it's like to have someone you love miles away and what happens in each's neighbourhoods on a daily basis.  But as the weeks and months go on, and letters continue to be exchanged, the friendship deepens, secrets are divulged, tears are shed and a life long bond is forged.

There is nothing in this novel except letters.  So if you think this is not for you, pass on by.  One Amazon reviewer (1 star) said it was "difficult to get into".  Well, you are reading letters, so there is nothing to get into, is there?  You're in already - but I do understand that this style is not for everyone.
There is a whole list of characters here, they come to life slowly through the letters.  Some you love from day one, some you come to love when you find out the reasons behind their behaviour, some you will never love.  But the characters that support the story of Rita and Glory are fully formed, not shadows in the background.  Both women have to be strong, they don't suffer hardships of food shortages, they are not bombed, the enemy is not in or over their country. They both suffer great sadness in different ways, and you feel for them both.  I am unsure why this book has not sold well here.  It is well written, has a good story, and strong characters.  I loved it, and finished with a few tears.