I've recently begun using NetGalley, where reviewers can request advanced copies of books from publishers, in exchange for an honest review. I felt like I hit the jackpot, when Penguin Books approved me for Jojo Moyes' The Ship of Brides. Moyes is a fantastic writer and I was excited to read another one of her novels.
The Ship of Brides is a fictionalized account of the true story of Australian women who married British soldiers during WW2. After the war, hundreds of women were brought to England on an aircraft carrier, set to be decommissioned. Moyes' novel follows a group of very different women, who share quarters on the ship.
Meticulously researched, Moyes starts off every chapter with a quote or news clipping from the real events, which helps set the scene for her fictional story. On one level, the idea for the story and hearing about how these brides were transported is fascinating. They had to keep these women entertained, safe and protected from mingling with the soldiers on board. Some of the women received telegrams mid-travel and were told that they were no longer wanted by their husbands. There is lot of inherent drama in this story and that's before you even get to Moyes fictional world.
The four main female characters couldn't be more different than one another and they are all forced to share a tiny room. Avice is concerned with her reputation and appearances and she is none too pleased to be bunking with Jean, a brash sixteen year girl who seems to lack all sense of decorum. Margaret is heavily pregnant and has smuggled a dog aboard, while serious Frances, is harboring a dark past.
I'm not going to give anything away, just know that there is plenty of drama and surprise to keep the pages turning. This story is even a bit of a tear-jerker, so have those kleenex handy.
The only minor story device that I didn't like, was the way Moyes book-ended the story with showing one of the women as an old lady, traveling with her granddaughter. It reminded me of the older Rose sequences in Titanic and even though it gave closure to the story, I didn't care for it.
Overall, this is a wonderful novel. The history element is fascinating and Moyes really knows how to bring her characters to life.