Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes & an F2F Report

The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes
Copyright 2005
Hodder & Stoughton - Historical Fiction (Post WWII)
482 pages

'Do you fancy going to one of these lectures?' Jean shouted, chewing gum as they made their way past the projection room. 'There's one on the strains of marrying a foreigner, next week.' Her voice, as it had all morning, carried over the noisy vibrations of the engines and the repeated piped calls, summoning Petty Officer Gardner or special sea dutymen to the commander's office.

Avice pretended not to hear her.

'I quite fancy the one on common difficulties in the first year,' Jean went on. 'Except our first year has been dead easy so far. He wasn't even there.'

--from The Ship of Brides, p. 91

But it was really the ship she loved: the size of it, like a leviathan, surely too huge to have been created by mere men, propelled by an epic strength through the roughest seas. She loved the scars, the streaks of rust that, despite years of painting and repainting, were visible on her skin, testament to the time she had spent at sea. Frances loved the infinite space visible all around her, the sense of boundless, irrevocable movement west. She loved the sense of possibility that the ship bestowed on her. The nautical miles and unfathomable fathoms that it opened up between her and her past as it glided through the water.

--from The Ship of Brides, p. 236

I wrote a little about The Ship of Brides when I finished reading and that was apparently enough to convince at least a few people to read the book. Maybe I should stick to two-line reviews? Nah.

The Ship of Brides is is a story based on an actual event. After WWII ended, 600 Australian WWII brides took a 6-week journey on an aircraft carrier to Great Britain to meet their husbands and begin their new lives. The story focuses on a set of brides who ended up living as roommates in the aircraft carrier, although you also get a broader perspective of the entire ship's population, as well as an understanding of the captain's frustrations and the thoughts of a marine whose wife found new love and desires a divorce from him so she can remarry and take the children along to the United States.

I could honestly go on all day about how wonderful this book was. The character development, the situations, the dialogue -- both that of the men and women on board -- the many interactions, friendships and even horrors were all utterly believable. There are endings both good and bad for brides on the ship, some of whom receive telegrams saying they're no longer wanted. The captain has his own challenges in a festering wound that he can't have treated because the replacement doctor is useless. He also must deal with the letdown of being forced into retirement.

What I loved most was the complete satisfaction felt upon the book's ending, which is utterly romantic for several of the characters, heartbreaking for others. The ending is absolutely perfect.

The bottom line:

The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes is definitely going to end up one of my favorite reads in 2010. I was swept away; I laughed, I cried. Lovely, believable writing and deft characterization with a tremendous amount of both internal and external conflict make The Ship of Brides a perfect read, in my humble opinion.

And, now the F2F report!

Many, many people asked me to share what my first experience with my new Face-to-Face book group was like. First, I should tell you the group read two books: Loving Frank by Nancy Horan and The Women by T. C. Boyle. I managed to check out Loving Frank from my library but didn't locate a copy of The Women. Both are about Frank Lloyd Wright's passion for women and his affairs, although Loving Frank focuses on Mamah, whom many consider the love of his life.

I didn't finish reading Loving Frank and actually had to return it to the library because there was a hold on it, but I knew about the shocking ending (which I won't spoil for those who haven't read it) and the members of the group described a portion as quite graphic and violent, so I'm perfectly happy with not having completed the reading of the book. Our leader encourages members to attend, whether or not they've managed to read a word.

So, what was the group like? They were a hoot! I have never sat with a group of women (and one man -- another fellow was unable to come, so it's not an all-female group) who are so passionate about books. They are noisy and fun, completely willing to accept each other's opinions, diverse as they are. In fact, they get so excited that they just holler right over each other. One woman said she thought Wright was, quite simply, "an S.O.B." and couldn't be convinced to view him otherwise. Almost all had viewed some of Wright's homes and one woman said, "He's gone down a notch in my mind. It'll be hard to look at his homes from the same perspective." Our fearless leader said, "I admire him," and sat quietly smiling.

What a blast!! And, even more fascinating . . . the home in which we met was designed by "a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright," and a man who was associated with Wright in some capacity. I believe the builder studied under Wright, but don't quote me on that. It was designed with the same long, low perspective -- a flat roof, sprawling rooms with high ceilings, the wondrous sense of spaces opening into spaces, and lots of windows placed to let in as much light as possible. The outdoor-indoor concept was evident and the sound of water bubbling in the background was soothing, although one member said, "It makes me want to pee."

Readers, your mouths would have dropped at the sight of the gorgeous floor-to-ceiling built-in shelves in more than one room. If I can talk our leader into letting me take a few photos, in the future, I will. But not till I've been around the group a while and gotten to know everyone. I'm really looking forward to our next meeting, which I'm told will be a relaxed Christmas affair at fireside with eggnog and "spiked and unspiked punch". Woot!

Just walked in, this week:

  • The Dressmaker by Posie Graeme Evans from Atria Books
  • The Pursuit of Happiness by Douglas Kennedy, also from Atria and
  • A Widow's Story by Joyce Carol Oates from Ecco

In-Out Report:

-9 books donated

-7 books swapped

+3 books from publishers

+2 books from the library sale

Net: -11 books

My goal is to get rid of 10 books for every 1 that comes in. It's going to take a lot more work to get to that point, but I currently have quite an interesting line of stacks to sort through, in my hallway. Wish me strength.

Up next will be my review of Desiree by Annemarie Selinko and I'll attempt to pre-post some reviews before I take off a few days for Thanksgiving holiday. Kiddo is home!! So happy to have him around for a week!


Would you like to read future updates about my F2F group?

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  1. Yes, I want to hear about your F2F group. I've been in several face-to-face book clubs, all different. In some ways, I favor the all-women groups because lots of women seem to be quieter when a man is present, letting him do most of the talking. I'd like to know about those dynamics in your group.

  2. 10 books for every one that comes sounds like a great goal. I should probably try something like that.

    I got rid of quite a lot but have more to go.

    Ship of Brides sounds fantastic!

  3. Wow, so much information, I don't know where to start. You've made The Ship of Brides sound wonderful so it's going on my wish list.

    Your book club sounds like fun - I love people who speak their minds - and I definitely want future updates about them!

  4. I seem to have settled into a WWI and WWII niche recently. I've known a few war brides (actually the parents of kids I went to school with) and think this examination of Australian war brides sounds great!

    Glad you enjoyed the book club!

  5. YES! Please continue to post about your f2f group. I'm so glad you had a good time. Wish I lived closer so I could join you. It sounds like a fun group. And, with regard to the books, I loved Loving Frank and have The Women high on my TBR list. What are you reading next? How do you choose your books? How do you decide who hosts? More details, please. :)

    Enjoy your Thanksgiving visit with Kiddo.

    Oh, and I love your idea to get rid of books. Rod & I took 12 boxes to Half-Price Books last Sunday. Made a whopping $95!! Woot!

  6. I loved Ship of Brides too, and want to pick up a hard copy of the book so that I can re-read the ending (since I turned in the audiobook).

    I would like to hear more about the group that you are meeting with. I enjoyed hearing about their different perspectives on the book, and the house sounds awesome. My dream home would have many built-in shelves.

  7. I just added this book to my PWS wish list. It sounds very interesting. I would love to hear more about your f2f book group too. I think it would be very interesting to be part of one. :)

  8. Bonnie,

    Only one man was present, but he was the husband of the group leader and spent most of his time just listening and refilling wine glasses. He spoke, but he really seemed to just enjoy the banter like I did. The consensus is, "Yes, please share," so I'll let you know what it's like at future meetings!


    I find it extremely difficult to part with books, but I'm gradually improving. The older I get, the more I realize I won't reread much of anything because I no longer have as much time left. Might as well pass them on!

    I highly recommend The Ship of Brides. It is such a good read.


    I know - long post! LOL I hope you love The Ship of Brides as much as I did. I thought it was absolutely wonderful.

    Everyone is in agreement, so I'll definitely post updates on the F2F group. They're such a fun, lively bunch. I'm sure there will always be plenty to talk about! :)


    I have always loved WWII books and The Ship of Brides is a good one. I'm slowly branching out, reading about other wars, but I think WWI and WWII are the easiest to relate to because they're closest to our time -- well, except for Vietnam, of course. I'm continually amazed by the vast quantity of stories about those wars and the depth of the sacrifices made by ordinary citizens.

    Thanks! I can't wait till December! I had such fun at my new book club. I wonder if it has a name.


    Will do! I wish you lived closer, too. It was exciting to find that most everyone actually read the books. I've heard a lot of people complain that either the members don't bother reading the selections or everyone disagrees and they go home from F2F groups feeling like they've been at a whine-fest. Not so in this group. Almost everyone read both books and they loved sharing their opinions but tolerated each other's, as well. You have to appreciate that!

    For December, we're reading The Gift of the Magi (which just happens to be included in Simon's Why We Need Love, so I've recently read it) and Hercule Poirot's Christmas (not sure where to find that one, yet). I don't know how they chose January's selection but it's a book about local politics. February is Cutting for Stone and it was chosen off a list of books from a book group newsletter someone brought along. Eventually, I'll probably make some suggestions, but this time I was a quiet little mouse. ;)

  9. Alyce,

    I'm so glad you enjoyed it, since you listened to the book on my recommendation!! :) I can't bear to part with my copy of The Ship of Brides because that ending was so perfect. I sobbed (the joyful kind of tears). It was just beautiful. Just FYI, my copy came from It's been a long time since I bought it, but I've found they have a good selection of British imports.

    I'll post updates on my F2F group, for sure. Everyone seems to like the idea. They are a fun bunch and I really enjoyed hearing their differing opinions. My dream home would have lots of built-in shelves, too. In fact, I told the group leader she's totally ruined me for house-hunting. We've been shopping for houses and I haven't seen anything wonderful, yet. I'm sure if her house was for sale it would be way beyond my budget, but it's fun to dream! :)


    Yay, I think you'll love The Ship of Brides. It's honest, so the men can be . . . well, they talk like sailors and act like them, if you know what I mean. But, it's not superfluous in its language and violence (there's a bit of violence); it's really quite realistic.

    Have you looked into book groups in Madison? I'll bet there are some around there, somewhere. I've always wanted to join one but it took me forever to find a welcoming bunch and one that meets in a safe part of town. I'm not willing to go to downtown Vicksburg at night!

  10. Any idea where I could find book club discussion questions for The Ship of Brides? I can't find anything online.


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