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Next to Love

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  3,700 ratings  ·  638 reviews
Beautifully crafted and unforgettable, Next to Love depicts the enduring power of love and friendship, and illuminates a transformational moment in American history.

Set in a small town in Massachusetts, Next to Love follows three childhood friends, Babe, Millie, and Grace, whose lives are unmoored when their men are called to duty. And yet the changes that are thrust upon
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published July 26th 2011 by Spiegel & Grau (first published January 1st 2011)
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3.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,700 ratings  ·  638 reviews

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Jun 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Billed as "A story of war, love, loss and the scars they leave" this book is the story of three women and begins in 1941 as they are forced to watch their husbands go off to war. Millie, Grace and Babe hold down the home-front while everyone dreads being the next recipient of a telegraph from the war front. Their story continues after the war, as they and their families deal with war and its aftermath. The reader also sees the women through the 50's and 60's, as they face the changes and upheava ...more
Kate Quinn
Nov 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"Three women and their men, friends linked forever by the tragedies of WWII." Aha, I thought when I read that brief description of "Next To Love." One of those female-friends books which has almost nothing about the men, all about women growing strong during the war. How happy I was to be wrong: this is a book that solemnly watches three couples, men and women, not only through the war years but the years after: their suffering, their triumphs, their poignant and tentative advances into the futu ...more
Jul 22, 2011 rated it liked it
“War…next to love, has captured the world’s imagination,” said the British lexicographer Eric Partridge in 1914. And indeed it has. As schoolchildren, we rapidly become acquainted with The Naked and the Dead, All Quiet on the Western Front, For Whom The Bell Tools, From Here to Eternity, Catch 22, Slaughterhouse Five…the list goes on and on.

But here’s what we don’t read about: the personal battles that are fought on the home front. We don’t get an upfront-and-personal look about the women behind
Aug 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

Ellen Feldman's Next to Love was a recommended read. Heather, the voice behind The Maiden's Court, suggested it at the Historical Novel Society Conference in Denver and I tracked down a copy soon after returning home. I wasn't at all familiar with it, but her rending of the plot had me sold sight unseen.

She mentioned the trials of life on the home front, but was very clear that the story focused on post-war America as well.
Lisa Eskra
Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Next to Love is a historical romance that follows the lives of three girlfriends from 1941 to 1964. It's easy to read, and I think anyone who enjoys the genre will probably like this book. The drama of families coping with war wounds is still timely and relevant. I think many military wives/girlfriends understand the struggles and fears embodied by the main characters.

The prologue is great. I'd hoped the rest of the book would've had the same tension and mystique, but it gets taken over by roman
Sep 13, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2011
The book is the story of three friends who get married right before the start of WWII. It follows them as the war ends and into the happenings of their lives.

And I found it dreadfully boring. The book covers a 20-year time span, with the author writing about a day here or a day there. Everything is written in the present-tense, so there's no history with these people and no connection. Plus these three women are supposed to be good friends, but it seems that they never talk to each other about a
Judith Starkston
Nov 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Next to Love is big in scope while everyday in focus and beautiful in its entirety. It spans the American years from December 1941 to August 1965 (from WWII to the Gulf of Tonkin). The novel has multiple narrative points of view and its topic, the effects of war, is that eternally huge one that human history never manages to escape. That’s big, although at 320 pages, I don’t mean that it is a long book.

And yet, rather than the epic and larger-than-life action that war novels often involve, Next
Jun 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
I have read a lot of books about WWII, that time in our countries history fascinates me and I love reading historical fiction about it. Ellen Feldman's Next to Love is one of the best books set in this time that I have read. The story is a about three best friends and the men they love and how they get through World War II and the years after.

Babe, Millie, and Grace are the three friends in the book and all three are given a lot of time to grow into very interesting characters that I really fel
Tara Chevrestt
Despite the book being told in present tense, an irritation to me, I really loved the beginning of this book. Imagine being a telegraph operator and being the first one to know who in town has lost a husband, father, or son? I got tingles from thinking of it. Truly, sad. Nevertheless, it got my attention..

The book introduces three different women with different mentalities and lives. WWII arrives, they all rush into marriage, and after the war, they face the consequences. Some will be widows, so
Pamela Todd
Next to Love is the most gut-wrenching, romantic, devastating and best book I have read this year. Bar none.

The novel centres around three friends – Babe, Millie and Grace as their husbands and boyfriends get pulled into the second World War. What I loved about this book was it showed in raw detail what it was like to be the ones left behind and how home could be just as wrecking as the home front.

The author didn’t hold back on a single thing and the stark honesty was like a powerful fist with
Barbara Mitchell
May 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
I won this book, which is coming out May 15th, from LibraryThing. If you are in a book club, I hope you'll consider reading it for discussion. I think it would spark quite a conversation about the life, loves, and responsibilities of women in marriage, regardless of whether they have children and regardless of the age in which they live.

The book spans the years from just before World War II through 1964, and the only complaint I have is that segments go back and forth between a few years which m
Apr 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked how the author begins with one character, Babe, and takes us with her through the years. At first, it seems like she's not really friends with the other women in the small town she lives in, but then it seems like the fact that most of the men from the town are going off to war draws them together. I found this interesting -- because I think that if it weren't for that, then these women wouldn't have enough in common to bond together at all. I also liked how the author told parts of the ...more
Aug 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'After the war we'll be happy.'

I absolutely loved this novel and I think it will be amongst my top reads of the year. It is beautifully written, with some wonderful expressions and images, but never excessive in its descriptions. The characters came to life for me, in particular Babe and Claude, but also smaller characters like Millie’s son Jack, and Charlie’s father King. The author captures the pain of loss and the realities of difficult situations, where a partner is lost forever or comes bac
Apr 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Babe Huggins is a woman who needs no introduction—and she doesn’t get one until the second chapter. Ellen Feldman’s “Prologue” is an interesting device to throw the reader into the middle of action before detailing the actor.

We eventually discover that Babe is Bernadette Dion who marries Claude Huggins. Together with chums Grace Painter and Millie Vaughn, Babe’s life unfolds over a 20-year period. The study of the trio’s lives is couched in the seminal notion that war impels lovers into conseque
This was an early review book that I was surprised to receive and eager to read. It was compared to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, both which I found informative, fun, and pulled me in as if I knew the characters. Although Ellen Feldman uses words well and crafts wonderful phrases in Next To Love I could not make myself really care about the characters and their lives. Babe, Grace and Millie could be my mother, aunts and their friends a ...more
Suanne Laqueur
Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-five-stars
Oh my God, SO FUCKING GOOD. I hate war. On the other hand, war has given us an endless, bottomless well of stories. Just when you think you've read it all or read it before, you read it again but it's new and different.

War. Love. Friendship. Parenthood. Childhood. Marriage. Change. War.
So beautifully written.
I loved it.
Aug 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Historical fiction fans, romance readers
Recommended to Yasmin by: Beverly Jackson
Some scattered thoughts regarding this book:

I really enjoyed this book...more than I thought I would. It was sort of bumpy in the beginning but as the story progressed I began to really enjoy it. Babe, Millie and Grace had been childhood friends since kindergarten. When we catch up with them they are young adults, newlyweds during WWII. As the war progresses the nation changes with it by allowing black men to serve in the war (albeit racism abound) and women to work outside of the home since so
Jill Meyer
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Ellen Feldman's new novel, "Next to Love", is a nuanced look at "The Greatest Generation" and the "Boomers" who followed. Set in WW2 and the couple decades after in a smallish Massachusetts town outside Boston, Feldman introduces three women - life-long friends - who marry and pursue different paths in the post-war society. Their husbands - those who return from the war - adjust to post-war life in much the same way as the three women do. Marriages, deaths, births, and other life milestones - of ...more
Received this book from the publisher via in order to provide the critique that follows in addition to participating in an on-line book club.

“War…next to love, has most captured the world’s imagination” – Eric Partridge, 1914 (believe he is a famous lexicographer and author who served in the Australian Imperial Force during WWI). This quote begins Ellen Feldman’s book about WWII’s effect on the family members and community stateside. A refreshing take from the abundance of WWII er
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it

I got teary before the end of the Prologue! This book moved me, entertained me, and took me someplace new.

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of novels set in the 1940s, so I have quite a few books of this era on my bookshelf. In company with The Book Thief, Sarah's Key and A Fierce Radiance, it's not often that a book impresses or surprises me. NEXT TO LOVE made me see this era in a whole new way.

Babe, Millie, and Grace, the narrators of this story, were changed by the war and its aftermath.
Jun 13, 2014 rated it liked it
So many books set during World War II seem to romanticize the whole time period, so it was refreshing to read a book that portrays both the period, the events of the time and their affect on the people living through those events with something resembling historical accuracy.

The story follows the lives of three high school friends, Babe, Grace and Millie through the war and the twenty years following it. Grace is from the upper crust of their small Massachusetts town and marries the son of one o
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
 The title, which I initially found odd (I was reminded a bit of the cheesy Ewan MacGregor flick Down with Love), is from a marvelous quote which encapsulates one of the themes of the novel: " to love, has most captured the world's imagination." (Eric Partridge, 1914).

Spanning 1941 through 1964, this engrossing book follows three women from a small Massachusetts town: Babe, Grace, and Millie.  Much of the novel is about the impact of World War II on their lives in this town -- the ones
May 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this because it was recommended based off of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I LOVED! Next to Love was not near as endearing and the characters were not as engaging either. With Potato Peel I wanted to visit those characters, join their book club, and share a pot of tea!
However I did like reading about this time period. This book follows three friends from the start of WWII to the 60's. Everything from that time period I have read has been in Europe. I liked read
Feb 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a joy to read. It is about three friends who are married to soldiers in World War Two. You get to know the women before their husbands leave to fight overseas, and you learn of how everything changes during the war. Most of the story is once the war ends and the women and their families have to pick up the pieces. Unless one has gone through this situation in real life, it is impossible to grasp how life altering being in combat is for the former soldier, as well as the spouses. This bo ...more
Dec 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, except for the ending - the ending left too many loose strings.

When I think of WW II, I think of the soldiers/boys going off to war, the challenges they faced, the efforts by Allies in terms of propaganda and espionage, e.g. code breaking. What I don't think much about is the women left behind - the wives married at the last minute before their "guys" are leaving to go to training. The mothers and fathers waiting for any news of their sons...and the fact that life
Sep 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing

I can not put into words how much I enjoyed this novel. The author did an amazing job of taking the reader back to the time where women only worked with their husband's permission and black men could be beaten for riding in a car with a white woman. It was a much different time. Some would say simpler, but the pressures these women dealt with were anything but simple. I found it utterly fascinating and really felt as if I were taken back to that era. I wou
Sep 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Actually 3-1/2 stars. I liked it more than plain old "liked it" and liked it less than, "liked it a lot." I wish there was a rating in between. Feldman writes beautifully. The story is about 3 women whose husbands were part of the D-day invasion. One husband survived, the other two did not. It follows the lives of these women for the next 20 years, and the after-effects of the trauma of WWII. All three ladies were rather dysfunctional, but then aren't we all to some extent... So if you like beau ...more
May 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Next to Love by Ellen Feldman is a story about three young women, close friends, who marry as WWII is beginning. Only one of the husbands return, shell shocked and unable to forget the horror of war. One woman has great difficulty accepting life without her husband nearly going mad as she tries to go on living. The third reconciles herself to her new life and remarries to a man of the Jewish faith and must deal with distrust and maligning of Jewish people as she raises her family. I found this a ...more
Sonja Yoerg
Jan 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
The opening of Next to Love is brilliant. A telegraph operator is the first to learn which men from the town have died in war. The story line then backtracks: three women in the town marry in anticipation of WWII, then we follow the couples into the war and out the other side. No one emerges unscathed; what Ellen Feldman does so well is show us the variety of ways in which people can be destroyed or scarred by war and, in some cases, eventually heal. Well-written and well-paced, this book neatly ...more
Kirsten Feldman
Apr 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Next to Love in three lines. Make no mistake: this is a book about war and its far-reaching effects not only on the soldiers who serve in it but also on the families and communities that they leave behind and sometimes return to, whole or in part. The story follows three couples, but I only felt drawn to one, Babe and Claude, and continued to mix up the others until the end. Ellen Feldman's story gave me much insight into war and love individually as well as love in war and after war, and her wr ...more
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Ellen Feldman, a 2009 Guggenheim fellow, is the author of Scottsboro, The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank, and Lucy. She writes both fiction and social history, and has published articles on the history of divorce, plastic surgery, Halloween, the Normandie, and many other topics, as well as numerous book reviews. She has also lectured extensively around the country and in Germany and England, and is a so ...more
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“The official line is that, after the war, women couldn't wait to leave the offices and assembly lines and government agencies. But the real story was that the economy couldn't have men coming home without women going home, not unless it wanted a lot of unemployed vets. So the problem became unemployed women. "How you gonna keep us down on the farm after we've seen the world,"' she ad-libs to the old World War I tune. 'Enter the women's magazines, and cookbook publishers, and all these advertising agencies carrying on about the scourge of germs in the toilet bowl, and scuffs on the kitchen floor, and, my favorite, house B.O. Enter chicken hash that takes two and a half hours to prepare. I can just hear them sitting around the conference tables. 'That'll keep the gals out of trouble.” 4 likes
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