Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Next to Love - Ellen Feldman

I absolutely loved this novel and I think it will be amongst my top reads of the year. It is beautifully written, with some wonderful expressions and images, but never excessive in its descriptions. The characters came to life for me, in particular Babe and Claude, but also smaller characters like Millie’s son Jack, and Charlie’s father King. The author captures the pain of loss and the realities of difficult situations, where a partner is lost forever or comes back from war a changed person. She then explores the joy and pain involved in forming subsequent relationships, whilst the memory of the lost first love lingers heavily.

Set in a small town in America, just prior to, during, and after World War II, the novel is constructed in six parts, referred to here as books, with the first containing some very moving letters between the couples, Babe and Claude, Grace and Charlie, and Millie and Pete, as they are separated due to the men having now gone overseas to fight. As the novel progresses beyond book one, another period of time is covered in each book from the point of view of all three women, though always narrated in the third person. This device gives us the reader an unique perspective on the events as they affect all the main three characters. The three women, Babe, Grace and Millie have been friends since childhood, and they are at the heart of this novel.

This book is about love, finding it and desperately holding on to it, missing out on it, and losing it. Beyond this though, the novel touches on important broader issues of the times in society; racism and sexism, through events in the book, such as Babe working whilst the men were away fighting, and then no longer being required in her role once the men returned, and Babe again fighting the cause for integration. Society at this period in history still left women with a limited role, and in this novel it still feels very much like a man’s world, with women having limited choices and settling for what they have. Through the well drawn characters with damaged minds and bodies who return from war, and the emotional scars and real absences endured by those who were left behind, the novel also very successfully portrays the long-term repercussions left by war. This is great fiction from a talented writer.


  1. Thanks for visiting my blog. I've only just discovered yours, but I'm now a new follower. We seem to like lots of the same books.

    I have a review copy of this book from NetGalley, your review has made me really want to read it soon!

  2. Hi Sam, thanks for visiting back for following, much appreciated :)

    I really hope you like this book when you get to read it!

  3. Ooh that sounds like a good book to read, thanks for this review, I'm your newest follower, hopping from BSN (personal) (science made easy)

  4. Thanks for stopping by recently, as it led me to your very cool blog. I see you enjoy Good Reads as much as me - it's a great site.

    Hope u r having a great week.

  5. Hi Esmeralda, thank you for visiting, commenting and following! :)
    Off to visit your site.

    Hi Diane, thank you for your kind comments. I do like Goodreads a lot, it helps me keep track! I really like your site.

  6. Found your site through Book Blogs! This sounds like a book that I would love to read, although I suspect it's either going to be a love it/hate it type of book, depending on if the author is trying to preach a message to the reader! I'll add it to my GoodReads wishlist!

  7. It's already on my wishlist! It's a different cover in the US.

  8. Thanks for stopping by Carrie, I read an ARC so it actually had a plain blue cover but I really like the proper cover. Visited your blog, new follower!


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