Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Major's Daughter - J.P. Francis

Summary:  Like Snow Falling on Cedars, a stirring tale of wartime love
 
April, 1944.  The quiet rural village of Stark, New Hampshire is irrevocably changed by the arrival of 150 German prisoners of war.  And one family, unexpectedly divided, must choose between love and country.
 
Camp Stark is under the command of Major John Brennan, whose beautiful daughter, Collie, will serve as translator. Educated at Smith and devoted to her widowed father, Collie is immediately drawn to Private August Wahrlich, a peaceful poet jaded by war. As international conflict looms on the home front, their passion blinds them to the inevitable dangers ahead.
 
Inspired by the little-known existence of a real World War II POW camp,The Major’s Daughter is a fresh take on the timeless theme of forbidden love. (Summary and image from goodreads.com.  I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.)


My Review:  In wartime, everyone has to make sacrifices. Collie has had to leave school to assist her father, a capable Major suffering physically from his chlorine inhalation in WWI, mentally from the strain of running a Prisoner of War camp, and emotionally from the loss of his wife. As a loving daughter, that part isn't difficult, but as the only person fluent in German she is asked to serve as camp translator and doesn't feel quite up to the task. It doesn't help matters when a prisoner arrives who steals her heart - a soft-spoken, well-mannered poet who just happens to be gorgeous. How can she allow herself to fall in love with him? But what if her heart doesn't listen to her head?

I don't really know the best way to review this novel. Was it a sleepy historical fiction romance? Yes, except for when it wasn't. Was it a page-turner? No, except for when it was. Did it have a direct message or idea to impart?  Yes ... ?  To be honest, I found myself a little confused about what this book was trying to be. Things happened, people fell in and out of love, hearts were broken and mended, But I'm not sure if lessons were truly learned. 

Francis has created a well-rounded cast of characters who are all generally good people. There are a couple of exceptions, but for the most part, this is an amalgam of people I'd sit down and chat with. However, I was left feeling dissatisfied, and I'm not even entirely sure why. No one gets their fairy tale and no one gets their comeuppance, but that's life, right? 

I think I was frustrated by the lack of growth in the characters. There were situations that demanded growth or regression, and it felt like the characters were too comfortable with the status quo and stayed static. As a reader, I walk away from books like that unfulfilled and slightly frustrated. It makes me wonder if that was Francis' point, that living a life of complacency is never fulfilling. But it made me want to move, to act, to do something to shake off the dust settled on me by the inactions of the characters. 

Overall, this is a comfortable book to read.  It flowed easily, and it was easy to get lost in the imagry. I just wished for more movement, however slight. 

My Rating:  Three stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  There is one character who is utterly revolting, and there isn't one scene he's in that isn't uncomfortable. There is unwelcome groping, foul language, and as a "joke", this character forces girls to undress in public for a ride home. There is also a brutal beating, and two brutal deaths. 

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