After the War is Over by Jennifer Robson
Set mostly in Liverpool, England, After the War is Over is a multi-layered story of life in Britain at the close of the first World War. It felt to me like an authentic depiction of the time with details of characters’ daily lives and activities.
The novel’s main character is Charlotte Brown. Determined to make something of her life and be helpful to others, she completes a fine education at Oxford, finds a job as a tutor and governess for the daughter of a titled and well-to-do family, and then spends four years as a military nurse at a neurological hospital in London.
During most of the story she works in the office of a relief agency for the poor in Liverpool and goes home each evening to a boarding house where she lives with other young working women.
Charlotte makes every effort to speak out on behalf of the voiceless and point out the plight of those suffering in a struggling post-war economy. An impassioned letter written to a newspaper editor lands her an additional job as a weekly columnist speaking out on a variety of social issues.
She rebuffs the romantic attentions of the editor whom she feels is just a good friend; Charlotte’s heart lies with Edward, the older brother of her best friend Lilly. Edward, injured and missing in action during the war, finally comes home but has a lot of healing to do. Charlotte is enlisted to help him through a tough time and their feelings for each other solidify.
The romance is slow to develop because of the duties each has and the class differences they feel that keep them apart.
Charlotte is a strong, admirable woman who longs for love and happiness but also feels a strong sense of what is proper; she is determined to find happiness in her work and service to others if she is denied a life with the man she loves.
Fans of Downton Abbey may find some similarities of time, place and culture in this novel.
One thing I felt was missing was Charlotte’s relationship with her parents. She was an only child, still a young single woman; it seemed likely she would be in more regular communication with them. Of course, communication and travel were more difficult at that time, so maybe my expectations were not legitimate. Late in the book, she does go to visit her family and the reader learns more about her background.
Other than that criticism, I felt like this was an excellent story with many levels that were believable and interesting to me. This is the author’s second novel and I think it is one worth reading!
By Sarah Preusser
Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of
Living with Joy by Susan Spencer-Wendel
Anytime someone asks for a book recommendation I always think of this book. The author shares her raw, personal journey with a disease that ultimately took her life just a short time after her story was published.
At age 44, Susan learned she had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.
There is one experience in particular that continues to stick with me. Recognizing the myriad of moments she will never live to see, she makes special arrangements to take her young daughter Marina on a trip to Kleinfeld’s in New York. While there, she will have the opportunity to see her daughter, though only 14 years old, put on a wedding dress for the first time. While the ladies surround her daughter, Susan shared a moment with her sister, asking her to bring Marina back when the time was right and there will be money left for her to buy her that special dress.
This is a beautiful memoir boldly scripted by a woman losing her life. As she types her story on an iPhone with her right thumb, the last finger working, her words will make you laugh as often as they make you cry. More importantly, they will remind you to live each day to its fullest.
Sarah Preusser of Brandon is a physician assistant working and living in the Twin Cities area.
By Jeanne Ray
Romeo and Julie: A Novel
by Jeanne Ray
“All of the passion of hate had become the passion of love.”
This delightful book centers around two rival florists, Julie Roseman and Romeo Cacciamani, both in their 60s. For as long as they can remember, their families have despised each other for reasons unknown. The two run into each other at a business conference and develop a budding romance.
The reader is taken into their lives as they sneak around town to see each other, hoping their families never find out about their relationship. But, what happens when the families do find out?
I definitely recommend this light, quick, funny and charming book. The plot and the characters are delightful. I often found myself chuckling out loud throughout the book.
As we learn from this book, loves knows no boundaries, not even set family traditions of loathing another family (again, no reason why). This is a feel good read.
Lori Meath of Rochester grew up and graduated in Alexandria. She is a former NICU nurse (22.5 years), now working in the Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue and POTS clinic at Mayo Clinic.