20 March 2014

Book Review: Spare Brides by Adele Parks

"New Year's Eve, 1920. The Great War is over and it's a new decade of glamorous promise. But a generation of men and women who survived the extreme trauma and tragedy will never be the same. 

With countless men lost, it seems that only wealth and beauty will secure a husband from the few who returned, but lonely Beatrice has neither attribute. Ava has both, although she sees marriage as a restrictive cage after the freedom war allowed. Sarah paid the war's ultimate price: her husband's life. Lydia should be grateful that her own husband's desk job kept him safe, but she sees only his cowardice.

A chance encounter for one of these women with a striking yet haunted officer changes everything. In a world altered beyond recognition, where not all scars are visible, this damaged and beautiful group must grasp any happiness they can find - whatever the cost."

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Spare Brides as a paperback or an eBook now.

I've been a huge fan of Adele Parks' chick lit novels that she has released over the previous few years. When I was younger and reading her books, I found myself struggling with them but now I love them and look forward to her new release each year. However, Adele has decided to do something a bit different this year with the release of her new book Spare Brides. This is Adele's first dabble in historical fiction, set in the years after World War One, and examining life in that period. I was hoping that I'd enjoy it as much as her other books that I've loved so much, and luckily I needn't have worried - it was a fantastic, absorbing read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Lydia is pleased that her husband's desk job kept him safe during the Great War - he did his service but Lydia can't help but feel that he was a coward staying at home instead of fighting on the front line. One of her closes friends Sarah paid the highest price in the war, leaving her a widow and single mother in one fell swoop. Behind the scenes she's struggling, but puts on a front that she's coping to all. Her sister Beatrice has neither a husband or boyfriend, and is wondering where she is going to be left in terms of society now she is getting older. She worries a lot for her brother who was left terribly wounded in the war, with life-changing injuries, but knows he doesn't want her help long-term. The women have all got burdens to bear, related to the war and those not, but will any of them find an ultimate happiness in amongst their sorrow and strife?

This book was a very interesting read from start to finish. At first, I did find that there were quite a few characters to get my head around, and it took me a while to solidify in my head who was who, and what their situation was. Sarah, Ava, Beatrice and Lydia seemed to mould into one for a while, but as the story progressed and I got to know the women better, it became easier to read and I didn't struggle with it as much. Adele's writing was as good as ever, it flowed beautifully and her descriptions of everything from the houses and land, to the women's dresses, emotions and everything else was brilliant. I could vividly imagine everything happening on their pages as if it were in front of me, it felt very atmospheric.

I don't really want to talk about the plot too much, as the beauty of this book was reading what happens for the women as their story progresses and they start to come to terms with their lives now the war is over. It's affected them all in many different ways, and I felt Adele Parks really puts across their desperation, sadness and hope too, very well and you end up hoping that the women will all find their own happiness in some way in the end. The men of the book were interesting too, quite a sideline in the book really but all those mentioned really represented the many actions of the war and how they were left affected by it, whether they'd been on the front line or not. In this respect, it was quite hard to read at times, knowing that people really did go through these horrors, but again Parks' writing was brilliant and made it easier to read.

For me, this is a great first historical novel from Adele Parks, and she has proved that she can switch genres and make it as much of a success as her other novels which is great news for her fans. I don't usually read historical fiction, but this book opened up my mind, and certainly makes me want to read more on the topic. Parks has created an intriguing world with these characters, all likeable in their own way, but have you questioning some of their decisions too - what are they driven by, is it despair, hope for the future, or just a feeling that they are pleased to have survived a national tragedy? I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I hope it's stunning cover entices more and more people to pick it up and enjoy it as much as I have done. Brilliant.

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