Edith's War, a novel, tells one woman's heart-wrenching, yet ultimately heart-warming, story of hardship, love, passion, and motherhood during Liverpool's Blitz of World War II. In early summer of 1940 young Edith Maguire witnesses the internment of her Italian neighbours following Mussolini's declaration of war against Britain. Edith is swept up in the unthinkable event of her Italian friends' deportation to Canada on the Arandora Star and experiences first-hand the hardships and grief that ensue as a result of the ship's fateful voyage. Edith's story is interwoven with observations and recollections by her two adult sons during a day spent waiting in Venice for their mother, now in her 80 s, to join them for a brief holiday. The two men's ruminations and discussions of their childhood during and following WWII slowly but surely release hidden memories and reveal long-held secrets. Edith s War is a tale of injustice, survival, courage, forgiveness, and an intricate web of relationships spanning four generations.
Andrew Smith was born in Liverpool, England and now lives in Toronto and London. He has taken creative writing courses at the University of Toronto, and has also graduated as a graphic designer. His short fiction has appeared in some of the most repected literary magazines in North America. He has published two non-fiction books: Strangers in the Garden, an illustrated history of flowers and Highlights, an illustrated history of cannabis. He is also an award-winning travel writer. Edith’s War, his first novel, won a gold medal for fiction at the Independent Publisher's Awards in New York. His second novel, The Speech, was published by Urbane Publications in United Kingdom in October, 2016.
Edith’s War – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat
“You know,” said Anna. “We all think we’re so clever. I know I used to be too proud. I had a good husband, three handsome boys who speak English and get along so good at school. Three fish and chip shops, a nice house – I thought I have it made. And the bang, suddenly it all disappeared. When a war happens, it shows you we don’t know nothing. War or no war, we’re all like leaves being blown around. No matter how much we think we’re the boss, we’re not.”
Edith’s War takes place not far from Liverpool in a town called Shrimpley. The time is the beginning of World War II.
Shortly after their marriage, Edith Maguire’s husband Joe must leave to help fight the war. Edith, being pregnant with their first child, leaves Liverpool to stay with her mother-in-law and brother-in-law in Shrimpley. There she meets Anna and Gianni Baccanello, along with their 3 sons, Paolo, Domenico and Carlo.
When Edith moved in with her in-laws she was a naive young lady. What she experienced during the 4 years that Joe was away, changed her completely. But more changes were in store for her when Joe comes home and her second son is born.
Edith’s War was created with fictional characters surviving real history. It’s written in two periods of time. One time period takes you through the trials of surviving as a wife and mother in the 1940s during WWII while your husband is away fighting a war that no one understands. The second time period takes place over sixty years after WWII in the 2000s when Edith, her two sons Will and Shamus and Edith’s secrets from the past all meet up in Italy.
Edith’s War is a love/hate book that tore me between characters. I could understand, yet not understand the events that took place. I could approve of, yet disapprove of the feelings felt by the characters. When you put together the story, the circumstances and the history revealed in Edith’s War, you can’t help but feel the feelings of each character as they struggle to survive. As I read this book I had another book come to mind. I know the stories are totally different but the style of Andrew Smith’s writing reminded me of Nicholas Spark’s writing “The Notebook.” This is a very well written book and a very engrossing read. You can't help but love it.
2010 Axiom Publishing, Inc. 375 Pages ISBN #978-0-9864962-0-2
Andrew Smith lives both in London and Toronto and writes historical fiction – actual events populated by fictional characters. He has taken creative writing courses at the University of Toronto, and has also graduated as a graphic designer. To date he has published two novels – EDITH’S WAR, first published in 2010 focusing on the internment of Italian men in Britain during WW II, and THE SPEECH published in 2016 defining Enoch Powell's infamous Rivers of Blood speech in 1968 in Parliament. His initial entry in to the book world was as a book designer before becoming a writer of non-fiction short stories before advancing to full-length novels.
Andrew’s novel EDITH’S WAR was a winner of a Gold Medal for Fiction, Independent Book Publishers’ Awards, New York. Not only is the book a revelation to those who have been unfamiliar with the topic of the internment of Italian men in Britain during World War II – just as the internment of Japanese and Germans in the United States during that period of time, it is also an introduction to a writer of eloquence and passion.
The flavor of this luminous book is set in the opening page – ‘Friday, April 26, 1940 -Edith was relieved when a burly figure appeared from a row of conifers that separated Mrs. Maguire’s garden from the adjoining property. The strange man strode purposefully towards the fighting boys, who were clawing at each other on the grass. He appeared to be older than Edith, twenty-five perhaps. Judging from his luxuriant black hair and tawny skin, the newcomer belonged to the Italian family who lived in the bungalow next door. But Edith was sure she’d never seen him before — she would have remembered. “Now you two, that’s enough,” said the man, grasping each boy by an upper arm and yanking them to their feet as effortlessly as if they were pint-sized dolls instead of two lusty adolescents. The boys practically dangled from the man’s gargantuan hands, their shirts streaked with grass stains and spotted with bright circles of blood. It wasn’t the bloodshed that sickened Edith. She’d seen worse brawls. What repulsed her was the expression of rancour that had transformed Liam’s normally placid features into a grotesque agglomeration of convulsive muscle and quivering flesh. Where does a fourteen-year-old boy learn to hate like that? “You’re a bunch of Nazi Wops,” Liam had screamed. “Why don’t you clear off back to Italy before we lock you all up.” Liam stood nose to nose with Domenico Baccanello, the youngest son of the Italian family. He gripped the front of Domenico’s shirt, knuckles white with tension. “You and whose army,” Domenico yelled. Edith was shocked at the thought that the two boys had been such fast friends. They often roamed the heath together for hours on end, or wandered the shore, probing for treasure among the detritus left by the receding tide.’
The novel tells one woman's heart-wrenching, yet ultimately heart-warming, story of love, hardship, passion and motherhood when she encounters the internment of Italians during Liverpool's Blitz of World War II. In early summer of 1940 young newly-wed, Edith Maguire, meets Carlo, the son of her Italian neighbours. With her English husband out of the country fighting for King and Country, Edith is besieged by unexpected and confusing emotions and longings. She is swept up in the unthinkable event of her Italian neighbours' internment and experiences first-hand the hardships and grief that ensue. Edith's story is interwoven with observations and recollections by her two adult sons during a day spent waiting in Venice for their mother, now in her 80s, to join them for a brief holiday. The two men's ruminations and discussions of their childhood during and following WWII slowly but surely release hidden memories and reveal long-held secrets. Edith s War is a tale of forbidden love, survival, courage, forgiveness, and an intricate web of relationships spanning three generations.’
Brilliantly written, this is a story that satisfies on every level – intellectually, historically, as a newer revelation of the facets of World War II, and as a love story that unfolds with passion. This book is a film waiting to be optioned! Highly Recommended.
Typically I have had some issues with most historical fiction, mainly because many novels tend to take some facts and then proceed to play loose with the details. I like the facts, the setting, and the mood to all be as historically accurate as possible and reflect the period without putting a modern spin on it based on our current sensibilities. Edith's War manages to fulfill my requirements beautifully. Andrew Smith did his research and, much to my delight, kept a real sense of time and place throughout Edith's War. This was even more apparent because the chapters flip back and forth through time.
The novel opens in 2002 with Edith's two adult sons, Will and Shamus (61 and 56), in Venice, spending a day together before the arrival of their 83 year old mother, Edith. Alternate chapter are set during WWII, starting in 1940, when Edith Maguire was a young war bride, pregnant and living with her mother-in-law by Liverpool. The chapters with Will and Shamus stand in sharp contrast to the chapters with Edith during the war. Will and Shamus relate to each other like real adult siblings do - they disagree, react to each other in a well defined way, and have long-held roles and resentments, while at the same time they are comfortable with each other and begin dredging up memories of the past. Between the brothers, we are privy to Shamus' inner thoughts and know his inner turmoil, especially coming to terms with the recent death of his long time life partner, Luke, while we have to wait to gain a greater understanding of Will.
Edith's story is more straightforward. We immediately see her developing relationships with her mother-in-law, teenage brother-in-law, Liam, and members of the Baccanello family during WWII. We know about her immediate attraction to Carlos. It is from her friendship and love of the Baccanello family that we view the tragedy of the internment of British Italians and the devastating effect it has on the family and Edith. As we slowly learn about Edith's experiences during the war, we follow the brother's interaction and slowly learn the details of their memories. Although I think most readers are going to guess right away where the story is heading, it is a very satisfying book.
Lately I've been trying to not compare books from two different authors, but two books read back to back and basically set during the same time period beg for some comparison. If you want a very quick, light treatment of the internment of the Jews, the biggest trial to be restricted membership to golf courses, don't care about historical accuracy (as much as I do), and need some whimsy, Read Mr. Rosenblum. If you like a more serious, realistic look at internment during WWII, and appreciate an exploration of family dynamics, read Edith's War. Highly Recommended (4.5); http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/
This book is an excellent story and I enjoyed reading Edith's story very much. However, the segments of the book concerning Will and Shamus were, I thought very stilted, a bore to read, and almost felt like it was written by a different person. I found the brothers whiny and self-absorbed. That in itself would be fine, since how they came to be the people they are is central to this story. I just thought this part was poorly written and I could never learn to like Will and his sarcasm towards his brother. I guess the message to be learned is that, as siblings, all of us should bury our sibling hatchets as adults and learn to communicate as friends. Perhaps our childhood experiences make that impossible for many siblings. I would have given 4 stars if I could have identified more strongly with the brothers. Overall I enjoyed the story and learned new things about WW2.
Many books that move back and forward between past and current time periods cause readers to prefer one period over another. This is what happened to me with this book. It's obvious that the two stories will meet and it's fairly simple to conjecture the final chapters. Despite this the book is well written and interesting; and it adds more information about WWII that many of us are not aware of - the internment of Italians during the war. I think the politics of this move were not illuminated that well, but perhaps the author didn't want to put the characters into a more knowledgeable position than their status might present. Overall a good way to spend a cold evening at home in front of the fire.
I won Edith's War as a First Read on Goodreads. It was not a book I would have normally picked up on my own, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. The book alternates between 1940's England and Present-day Italy. Smith beautifully captures the essence of war life while focusing on two families, the Maguires and the Baccanellos. Edith Maguire is at the center of the story as the book follows her life and choices during and after the war. Overall, Edith's War was a worhtwile read full of war, love, hate, betrayal, and forgiveness.
I bought this book two years ago in Canada. The author was promoting it in a book shop so I went and had a chat with him. He was very nice and signed my copy of the book. I don't know why it took me so long to getting around to reading it. I'm glad that I finally picked it up. This is one of those books that once you pick it up you can't put it down.
Really enjoyed the author's description of the characters' inner feelings, which was peppered through the chapters. Also the juxtaposition the different periods of time greatly added to the interest, as they became more interlinked as the book progressed. This became a real page turner for me. Couldn't wait to get back to find out what happened next.
Another tough one to decide the rating. I think I'd give this 3.5 if we had halves -- it didn't REALLY draw me in for quite a while, but by the end I was more hooked. Not my favorite ever, but a good book.
It was a really good book. I finished it in two days. I found it hard to put it down. The twists and turns were so interesting. I really felt for the characters with all of the emotions and sadness and all that. it's really well written. definitely recommend it to everyone.
I thought Smith did a good job of showing what life was like during the war. I enjoyed the historical aspects more than the relationships but I'm sure the opposite would be true for others. Read the full review.