The ‘friendly invasion’ of Britain by over a million American G.I.s caused a sensation amongst a generation of young women deprived of male company during the Second World War. With their exotic accents, smart uniforms and aura of Hollywood glamour, the G.I.s soon had the local girls queuing up for a date, and the British boys off fighting abroad turning green with envy.
But American soldiers offered something even more tantalising than a ready supply of chocolate, chewing gum and nylon stockings. Becoming a G.I. bride provided an escape route from Blitz-ravaged Britain, an opportunity for a whole new life in America – a country that was more affluent, more modern and less class-ridden than home.
Some 70,000 G.I. brides crossed the Atlantic at the end of the war to join the men who had captured their hearts – but the long voyage was just the beginning of a much bigger journey.
Once there, the women would have to adapt to a foreign culture and a new way of life thousands of miles away from family and friends, with a man they hardly knew out of uniform. Some struggled with the isolation of life in rural America, or found their heroic soldier was less appealing once he returned to Civvy Street. But most persevered, determined to turn their wartime romance into a lifelong love affair, and prove to those back home that it really was possible to have a Hollywood ending.
Publisher: Harper Collins
Reviewer: Jen Kendell
So many emotions run through this book with both happy and sad times as these young women survived the War then moved bravely to America to marry into a new and unknown way of life. Four separate stories tell about the experiences of Sylvia, Margaret, Gwendolyn and Rae and how they coped with their new lives. It is especially poignant as one of the women, Margaret’s granddaughter Nuala is co-author of the book. She promised her grandmother to tell the story to the best of her ability. Nuala actually travelled to the US, stayed in an old house and managed to make contact with some of the people connected with the stories.
I couldn’t put this book down; it both fascinated and moved me – I’ll be looking to read other books by these authors – great stuff!
The GI Brides arrival in the States was sometimes met with fanfare or the jeers of the locals upset about the arrival of these British women upon their shores. There were GI Brides whose husbands changed their minds and were not waiting to meet them but for the majority of the GI Brides and American soldiers they were finally reunited.
Margaret, Lyn, Rae and Sylvia are the four ‘GI Brides’ whose stories are simply and beautifully told by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi. Their stories are so absorbing that you feel as though as you are sitting with these strong and determined women as they tell you their stories over afternoon tea. There are moments when you laugh out loud and moments when your heart breaks upon reading about the moments when lovers do not return from war, brides wave goodbye to their families and the moment when they are faced with the reality of life in a new country or faced with the truth about their husbands.
The GI Brides stories are filled with a desire to return to the familiarity of Britain but there is a stronger a desire to build a new life in American with their husbands. This is a moving tribute to these admirable women and Nuala Calvi has kept her promise to tell the story of her grandmother who was the inspiration behind ‘GI Brides – the wartime girls who crossed the Atlantic for love’.