War Crimes for the Home by Liz Jensen
Living in Bristol without their parents, Gloria and Marje survive WW2 by working in a munitions factory and seeking thrills with American GIs.
Overpaid, Oversexed and Over here. One Yank and …
Gloria narrates the story as she sits in a nursing home reminiscing about falling in lust and perhaps love. The novel isn’t just about relationships and dating but also about possession, sibling rivalry and illusion.
War Crimes for the Home is like no other WW2 novel I have read. Gloria and her sister contradict the morally upright women working on the homefront who usually appear in WW2 novels. No demure ladies reluctantly falling in love with dashing foreign soldiers here! Instead, the outrageous behaviour displayed by the two sisters is actually an understandable form of release in such a tense and violent environment. I liked this original perspective. It seemed realistic and made me consider WW2 differently.
The world the two sisters operate in is rather brutal; very early on is a vividly described accident at the munitions factory. Throughout the novel Gloria uses a repartee of jokes as a way to avoid unpleasant memories. Despite the jokes, there is no humour in the novel and it is quite a gritty read. This is no sweeping historical romance!
Gloria’s language is distinct and she speaks in her own authentic voice. Another example of using narrative voice so effectively is the wonderful The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon. I am keen to read another of Liz Jensen’s novels to see if this is a common theme in her writing. However, one advantage that Leyshon’s story has is that it is actually a novella. While it seems War Crimes for the Home is short at just 240 pages, it still feels a little long. I understand why repetition is needed but by the end I was a tired of the same comments and was finding Gloria’s jokes tedious.
War Crimes for the Home is quite an uncomfortable read but the unique perspective on WW2 and the brutality women experienced on the homefront is memorable. The book will linger in my mind for a while as it certainly leaves an impact but it is an awkward book to recommend to someone unless they are seeking an unsettling read.
War Crimes for the Home: 3 Stars
The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon. This novella is completely different in content to War Crimes for the Home (a semi-illiterate farm girl in the 19th century) but it is worth mentioning as an example of a most memorable, distinctive character voice. 5 Stars.
The Collaborator by Margaret Leroy. I wanted to quickly mention this novel as I read it in one sitting last summer and is the antithesis of War Crimes for the Home. It is a sweeping WW2 romantic drama set in Guernsey. 5 Stars.
Finally, I can’t help but mention A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute. I fell in love with this story about the war in the Pacific when I read it as a teenager. This new cover looks amazing.
And finally, three WW2 novels on my shelf at the moment:
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Simon Mawer.
The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff
City of Women by David Gillham
I don’t usually read WW2 novels so I will see how long it takes me to get through these three!
- Liz Jensen, Author of “The Uninvited” and “The Rapture”. (graceholliday.wordpress.com)
- Look up your London postcode and see where was bombed in WWII. Amazing! (warhistoryonline.com)
- Don’t judge a book by it’s cover! (gcbooks.wordpress.com)
- ‘The Colour of Milk’ by Nell Leyshon (kimbofo.typepad.com)
- ‘The Colour of Milk’: the price of learning to read (seattletimes.com)