As World War II draws closer and closer to Guernsey, Vivienne de la Mare knows that there will be sacrifices to be made. Not just for herself, but for her two young daughters and for her mother-in-law, for whom she cares while her husband is away fighting. What she does not expect is that she will fall in love with one of the enigmatic German soldiers who take up residence in the house next door to her home. As their relationship intensifies, so do the pressures on Vivienne. Food and resources grow scant, and the restrictions placed upon the residents of the island grow with each passing week. Though Vivienne knows the perils of her love affair with Gunther, she believes that she can keep their relationship and her family safe. But when she becomes aware of the full brutality of the Occupation, she must decide if she is willing to risk her personal happiness for the life of a stranger.
Simply put, I adored this book. The characters, the setting, the time period, and the themes of this book drew me in from the first page. The book's main character Vivienne de la Mare was richly drawn, and the novel captured so many different aspects of her life. I think that it was a perfect illustration of how the roles of wife, mother, mother-in-law, friend, citizen, and woman can stand in stark contrast to one another.
Like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I also loved, the book was set in Guernsey during the World War II German occupation. As an American, my first inclination is to be judgemental of the German soldiers: Germans Bad, Allies Good! However, the author invoked not only the political and nationalistic arguments for the occupation - she also strongly captured the human element. The citizens of Guernsey had different approaches to coexisting with the Germans, and the Germans, some of which who were accidental soldiers, did not all feel the same way about their circumstances. I was impressed with how this book moved me to think about some items with a different perspective.
Even then, however, the book included horrific aspects of the war including the Organsation Todt, where prisoners were sent to Guernsey and lived in wretched conditions. These things were not glossed over and were given the respect and attention that they deserved within the story.
I have so many feelings for this book, and how it wove so many stories, conflicting duties and feelings together so well. It was exciting and heart-wrenching, entertaining and educational. And, like a cherry on top, it had a perfect, perfect ending.
I would highly recommend The Soldiers Wife to lovers of historical fiction and women's fiction. Please read it.