Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Books Read: Iris Jones Simantel - The GI Bride

Iris had escaped the Blitz but now lived in crippling poverty after the war - until a chance meeting changed her life. Aged just sixteen, she fell in love and married US soldier Bob Irvine. And soon after she set sail for a new life in America.

It was the 1950s, the land of hope, dreams and Doris Day movies. But Iris ended up in a cramped Chicago bungalow, shared with Bob's parents. With a baby on the way and a husband turning daily into a stranger, Iris was wracked by homesickness. Trapped and desperately lonely, she had to make a fresh start, in a country where hope and opportunity thrived.

In this dramatic sequel to the Sunday Times bestseller, Far From the East End, we follow young Iris Jones Simantel from London to New York, Chicago and Las Vegas in her struggle to find work, love and a sense of belonging in a foreign land.

I don't normally read these sort of non-fiction books but when a copy of The GI Bride arrived out of the blue I decided to go it a go.  Although this is the second memoir that Iris Jones Simantel has written, the good news is that it can be read completely as a standalone.  

Iris is just 15 when she meets and falls in love handsome American soldier Bob Irvine who sweeps her off her feet.  However, just months later when Bob hears that he is due to return to the United States he proposes and they get married shortly after Iris' 16th birthday so that they can still be together.

Having endured wartime rations and post war life in Britain, Iris has high hopes for a new exciting life in America but life doesn't exactly turn out for her as she'd hoped.  Being young and a long way from family, Iris has to grow up fast and it's only the support of fellow British GI brides that makes life bearable for her especially without any real support from her husband or his family.

I really wanted to love this story especially as it was about Iris' own life in post war times but I can't quite put my figure on why it didn't grab me as much as I wanted to.  I'm not sure if it was due to the narrative which I found to be rather bland and simplistic as if she had to reel off a list of events that happened over a timeframe but there didn't appear to be any real substance to the story.  It also seemed to come to a very sudden ending which has obviously left room for a follow up book to pick up where this one left off.

Don't get me wrong there were were bits that I did find eye-opening, the noticeable differences between life in post-war Britain and life in the US, the way she was treated by the Lutherian churches she went to for solace and guidance, and how openly she talks about attending a back-street clinic, but these instances were few and far between.  I'm sure if you enjoy reading true-life memoirs then this is a book for you.

I'd like to thank Katie at Penguin books for sending me a copy of this book to review.

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