Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.
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This is the story of Ben and Olive, a couple mismatched in faith but united in love as war breaks out across Europe. There was potential for it to be the haunting story that it promises to be, but it never quite gets to that point.
There is no question that the author did his research. The facts of the couple's story are clearly presented, but that is the novel's most significant problem. It reads like a list of facts, a retelling of events lacking the emotions that must have been a part of them. The reader is told that Olive spent three miserable months looking for a job, but we are not there with her enduring it. We are told that she worked herself to the point that she had to be hospitalized, but we never experience her weariness or despair. Even the romance comes across much more like a torrid affair than an enduring love story.
The title of this book led me to believe that there would be themes of faith involved, but Ben asks early on 'what relevance is religion in today's world?' While Ben is Jewish and Olive is Catholic, their faiths do not seem to impact their worldview beyond putting up barriers to their marriage. Neither really practices their faith, but it is repeated multiple times that if it weren't for their differing faiths (and the fact that Olive is already married) that they would get married.
Dialog is stilted and repetitive as the author seems to be trying to tell everything just as it happened - including the chain of communication that means the reader hears everything multiple times as different people talk about it. A storyteller's skill would relate the sharing of information without restating it for every character that becomes involved.
In the end, a true story that should be an emotive tale was bland. I never felt any connection to Olive or any suspense involving her search for Ben (which, again, we are just told she is doing, the reader is never involved). This novel could be reworked to be so much more than it is, drawing the reader into Olive's trials and heartbreaks, but as it is written we are never fully invited in.
I received this book through NetGalley. Opinions are my own.