Letters Across the Sea

 Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham

A romance with some interesting WWII history. The title suggests an epistolary novel but it's not that - there are letters, but only a few. 

In the 1930s, friends Max Drefuss and Molly Ryan's friendship is beginning to develop into something more, but is complicated by their different faiths. He is Jewish and she, Protestant. With growing anti-semitism around the world and similar tension growing in their own community, their families - who have been good friends till now - and friends warn them against planning a future together. 

One evening at a community baseball game, tensions flare when a swastika is publicly displayed, resulting in a riot involving thousands. Molly's father, a policeman, catches Molly and Max about to kiss, and he grabs Max to pull him away from her. Other family members get involved and someone throws a brick hitting hits Mr. Ryan in the head, an injury that leads to a stroke. Everyone blames Max's father, who was trying to protect his son from Mr. Ryan, and the friendship between the families is broken. 

When WWII starts, Molly's four brothers sign up, as does Max. Molly is working as a journalist for the Toronto Star and she has begun dating a colleague. 

At this point in the story, the action moves to Hong Kong, where Max, Ritchie and their friends are in a battle for their lives. I didn't know anything about this particular battle or the camps to which the captured soldiers were taken and found this section quite interesting if gruesome. 

After the war, the survivors come home changed in body and mind. Some characters get their happily ever after and some don't but over all the ending is hopeful and upbeat. 

I enjoyed the history, but the story and dialogue seemed less than realistic at times. At the end the author includes a 'note to the reader' with further historical information. I found the writing better in that section, with Graham's enthusiasm for the subject grabbing me in a way the love story didn't. I did learn some Canadian history from it, so if I can't say I really liked it, I can say I'm glad I read it.



shelleyrae @ book'd out said...

Thanks for being honest about your mixed reaction.

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