"Every girl's dream was to be whisked away by a handsome GI .....
Iris Jones had escaped the Blitz but now lived in crippling poverty after the way - until a chance meeting changed her life. Aged just sixteen, she fell in love and married US soldier Bob Irvine. And soon after she set sail for a new life in America.
It was the 1950s, the land of hope, dreams and Doris Day movies. But Iris ended up in a cramped Chicago bungalow, shared with Bob's parents. With a baby on the way and a husband turning daily into a stranger, Iris was wracked by homesickness. Trapped and desperately lonely, she had to make a fresh start, in a country where hope and opportunity thrived."
Although the majority of my reading is fiction, I do like non-fiction, especially memoirs and travel books. The G I Bride is the sequel to Iris Jone Simantel's first book Far From The East End. I haven't read the first one, but had no trouble whatsoever in following the story in The GI Bride - it works very well as a stand-alone story.
It is February 1955, and Iris Jones is saying goodbye to her family, and to Britain. She is about to embark upon a life-changing journey, across the Atlantic to start married life with her American soldier husband Bob. More than 100,000 women left the shores of England as GI Brides and Iris, at age sixteen was probably one of the youngest. She was just a small child when World War II was being fought, she met her husband Bob after the war. Iris did not have a happy home life, she felt unloved by her parents, and was living in poverty - America really did seem like the land of opportunity.
Starting with the account of her awful sea voyage over the Atlantic, to her first sighting of the Statue of Liberty, and then finding herself living with parents-in-law who made it plain that they didn't approve of her, Iris Jones Simantel recounts with honesty and often with humour how her dreams didn't quite come true. No more than a child herself, her courage and bravery, and sometimes her utter desperation shines through her writing. It's quite incredible that a young girl, barely out of school and very inexperienced would be allowed, or encouraged to make that journey - so far away from everything familiar, with no support except for a husband who she barely really knew.
The GI Bride is a down-to-earth story, told very well by an author who creates a wonderful sense of place with her writing. She does not shy away from the harsh realities of her life, she doesn't gloss over the things that she had to do to survive, and is totally honest about what she did. There is no doubt that Iris made some decisions that she may have come to regret, but it has to be remembered that she was young, alone, and incredibly protective of her young family.
My thanks go to Katie Sheldrake from Penguin who sent my copy for review. The GI Bride was published by Penguin UK in paperback on 9 May 2013.
Iris Jones Simantel grew up in Dagenham and South Oxhey, before moving to the US with her GI husband Bob at the tender age of 18. She now resides in Devon where she enjoys writing as a pastime. Her first memoir about her childhood, Far From The East End, beat several thousand other entries to win the Saga Life Stories Competition.