The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey, which will be available in stores on February 5, 2019, tells the journey of three women from Boston in 1944 who joined the Red Cross Clubmobile girls in order to try to track down one of their fiancés, who has been lost at war for months. It’s the third and final book on my WWII-inspired-fiction journey, and I’ve got to say, I saved the best for last.
1944: Fiona Denning has her entire future planned out. She’ll work in city hall, marry her fiancé when he returns from the war, and settle down in the Boston suburbs. But when her fiancé is reported missing after being shot down in Germany, Fiona’s long-held plans are shattered.
Determined to learn her fiancé’s fate, Fiona leaves Boston to volunteer overseas as a Red Cross Clubmobile girl, recruiting her two best friends to come along. There’s the outspoken Viviana, who is more than happy to quit her secretarial job for a taste of adventure. Then there’s Dottie, a shy music teacher whose melodious talents are sure to bring heart and hope to the boys on the front lines.
Chosen for their inner strength and outer charm, the trio isn’t prepared for the daunting challenges of war. But through it all come new friendships and romances, unforeseen dangers, and unexpected dreams. As the three friends begin to understand the real reasons they all came to the front, their courage and camaraderie will see them through some of the best and worst times of their lives.
Of the three books that I read this month that take place in WWII, this is definitely my favourite.
I like that the story drops us right at the beginning of the girls’ Red Cross journey, on a boat on their way to London. This whole book takes place in the span of a year, but the way Healey has written it makes it feel like both an eternity (which I’m sure is how it felt to anyone having anything to do with the war efforts) and like it’s just a snapshot in the rich, full lives of these brave women. We get filled in on the Beantown girls’ backstories with snippets of conversations they have with their new friends, and the author chooses to move the action quickly by filling in any gaps with Fiona’s letters to home, which is a brilliant plot device in this case.
Much like many accounts from soldiers in the war, this novel demonstrates how confusing emotions can be when you’re thrown into a war. There are love stories at every page turn, and they’re not necessarily all romantic. It reveals how people you meet for five minutes can change you for the better—and how fast (and hard) you can fall in love…even when you weren’t looking for it.
In some ways, this book reminded me of a novelized version of Band of Brothers. It gave me yet another point of view of the war (this time from an American perspective), and yet it felt fresh and informative. If you’re going to read only one piece of fiction surrounding WWII this year, this would be my pick.
Food for thought
Fiona and her friends have to make thousands and thousands of doughnuts and coffee for the brave soldiers who were fighting for our freedom. The soldiers were grateful for any comfort from home, but it got me thinking about how much I missed ketchup chips while I was living in England. If you were away from home for many months, which food would be the first on the menu upon your return?
“‘Is any civilized person meant for war?’ I said. ‘And lots of women are doing their part. What about the Land Army girls here, or the WAAFs? There are plenty of us working in the war, built for it or not.” —Jane Healey, The Beantown Girls
Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the advanced copy.