“I wonder what it is like for him to be here–with all around him the unfamiliar island night. Landscapes are most themselves, most separate from us, at night. Even to me, who have lived so long in this secluded valley, the Guernsey night can feel a little alien–the cry of the owl so lonely, the dark so dense and deep.” —The Soldier’s Wife, Margaret Leroy
The Soldier’s Wife by Margaret Leroy was published on July first and is 416 pages. I was sent a copy for review from Hyperion Voice.
Set on the English Channel Island of Guernsey during the Nazi occupation of WWII, The Soldier’s Wife is the story of Vivienne de la Mare, her affair with a German soldier, and her relationship with her family and neighbors. When we meet Vivienne she is caring for her mother-in-law and her two daughters while her husband is away fighting for the allied forces in London. From the onset, Vivienne is faced with agonizing decisions; the first of which is whether or not to get on the last boat to London. Shortly after deciding not to go, German bombers announce a takeover with a terrible airstrike that leaves many peaceful Guernsey civilians dead, and marks a change in island life as they know it. The Germans quickly march ashore and take over houses, businesses, and property as their need arises, and impose rules and curfews, putting the island under martial law.
When a group of German soldiers move into the house next door to Vivienne and their lives intersect, suddenly alliances become confused. Struggling for an oasis from bad marriages and the horrors of war, Vivienne enters into a love affair with a complex and sensitive German soldier named Gunther. As rumors spread and work camps form on the island, the web in which the characters become entangled takes on life and death consequences, and Vivienne finds herself wondering how well you can ever really know someone.
The Soldier’s Wife is a tour de force and one of the best historical novels I’ve read this year. It is reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and Those Who Save Us, and the courageous and sober Vivienne is a character I won’t forget. A perfect blend of plot, tension, and history, The Soldier’s Wife is the kind of book you’ll pick up and not be able to put down until you’ve read the last poignant sentence.
Leroy is a gifted writer and I give The Soldier’s Wife my highest recommendation.
Read this book. Then tell me what you think.