People yearning to return to Guernsey Island after reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society are in luck! The Soldier’s Wife by Margaret Leroy is also set on Guernsey Island in the English Channel during World War II. Leroy paints such a realistic picture of the island that you feel as though you are walking along side the characters while they manage their lives as the Germans occupy their beloved homeland.
The sacrifices and the hardships the islanders experience are relayed through the story of Vivienne de la Mare as she tries to keep her family together while her husband is off fighting for England. With her two daughters and a mother in law who is quickly exhibiting signs of dementia, she has her hands full. When the property next to theirs is commandeered by German soldiers, lonely Vivienne tries to keep her distance from the soldiers so as not to appear friendly with the enemy. Eventually, she and a German soldier, Gunther, begin a friendship that slowly blossoms into a secretive, illicit love affair.
Vivienne struggles with her conscience, knowing that her family and neighbors would strongly disapprove of her relationship if it was ever uncovered. When she helps harbor and feed an emaciated Jewish work camp escapee, she realizes that Gunther must not become aware of her involvement with the escaped prisoner.
There are many tender and poignant moments set against the backdrop of war as Vivienne tries to keep her family clothed, fed and safe. While her mother in-law becomes increasingly ill and her children question decisions she has made, Vivienne attempts to keep their home life as normal as possible during these abnormal times. But, underneath the surface there is always the awareness that the world is at war, and though the German soldiers are often friendly, some of their inhumane acts are hard to accept.
This fast read would make a fine selection for book clubs since there are many topics including war and foreign occupation, compassion, loyalty and adultery that would contribute to an interesting discussion .