Monday, 21 September 2009

War Crimes for the Home by Liz Jensen


This is a book that defies classification. Its set in WWII, but its not your typical war story. Gloria is in her seventies, living in a nursing home because her son thinks she is losing the plot a bit, and recounting her life as a young woman working in a munitions factory during the war effort. Her son Hank is frustrated with her because what she says about his father, an American GI, and evidence he has discovered do not tally. As well as this there is a mysterious woman visiting Gloria in the home who claims to be her daughter, a fact which Gloria denies vehemently.

Gloria and her sister live alone, although they work long, twelve hour shifts at the factory, they by no means live a fun free life. They go out, party, and have sexual relationships, mainly with GI's. Gloria has what she considers to be a long term, stable relationship with an American, but predictably he doesn't view it this way and scarpers off to America after the war. In her conversations with her son, Gloria maintains that she went with him, married him then returned to the UK with the child.

This is where the discrepancies set in. This fairly obviously doesn't match up with what Hank has discovered and is what leads him to believe she is losing her marbles. For us as readers, we also see Gloria conversing with her dead friend, and a young, wet girl who periodically appears in Gloria's life. And there's also a stage hypnotist and his wife who seem to make occasional appearances in Gloria's life, most tellingly, as she is giving birth.

All these threads run throughout the book, leading to a confusing, but very compelling mystery story. It's a really short book, but manages to address, a lot of issues. I enjoyed reading about the life of young women during the war, but I think the most interesting was the nature of memory. When all the threads are tied up, and we do finally know what happened to Gloria, and who the mysterious woman is, we start to question whether she is truly suffering from dementia, or just suppressing memories and creating a different truth to hide the one she couldn't deal with. And the motives of the people who assisted her with this are questionable. There's a real twist to the end but I can't say much more without giving the story away, but suffice it to say, Gloria is betrayed by the people she trusted the most, however misplaced that trust may be. It's a brilliant book, and one that will stay with me for a long time.


4 comments:

Anna said...

This sounds fascinating and really different from the other stories I've read that touch upon WWII. I'll get this posted on War Through the Generations soon.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

savidgereads said...

I have never ever heard of this book until now and think it sounds utterly wonderful! I will have to keep a look out for this, a very different take on the war!

Anna said...

We posted your review on War Through the Generations.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Dreamworld Books said...

I have had this book on my shelf for several months. I picked it up once, and put it back down, not being in the mood for it. I think your review made me see it in a new light. Thanks! I'll definitely be trying it again soon!