Title: Love in the Blitz (review copy)
Author: Eileen Alexander
Genre: Non-Fiction, Letters, Memoir
Blurb from Goodreads
On July 17th 1939, Eileen Alexander, a bright young woman recently graduated from Girton College, Cambridge, begins a brilliant correspondence with fellow Cambridge student Gershon Ellenbogen that lasts five years and spans many hundreds of letters.
But as Eileen and Gershon’s relationship flourishes from friendship and admiration into passion and love, the tensions between Germany, Russia, and the rest of Europe reach a crescendo. When war is declared, Gershon heads for Cairo and Eileen forgoes her studies to work in the Air Ministry.
Love in the Blitz is an extraordinary glimpse of life in London during World War II and an illuminating portrait of an ordinary young woman trying to carve a place for herself in a time of uncertainty. As the Luftwaffe begins its bombardment of England, Eileen, like her fellow Britons, carries on while her loved ones are called up to fight, some never to return home.
Written over the course of the conflict, Eileen’s letters provide a vivid and personal glimpse of this historic era.
Equal parts heartrending and heartwarming, Love in the Blitz is a timeless romance and a deeply personal story of life and resilience amid the violence and terror of war.
“Love in the Blitz” is a collection of letters written by one woman, Eileen Alexander, to her future husband, Gershon Ellenbogen, during the time of World War II.
The book is a fascinating insight into the day to day activities of one woman during war times and how they impacted upon her family, career, and her heart.
I really do love the idea of this book because the best way to understand history is from getting eye witness reports I feel. And this collection of letters is certainly that as we are given a bird’s eye view into the day to day minutiae of Eileen’s life. However, as the letters are all written by Eileen to Gershon there is a sense of one sidedness about the narrative that she is giving us through these letters. It’s such a pity that we don’t have Gershon’s replies to further enhance the reading experience.
Eileen was certainly a one-of-a-kind sort. She definitely experienced the war from a place of privilege and that is evident throughout her writing as frequently there is a strong sense of detachment from the trials and tribulations that those less fortunate than she experienced during those same times. But even though she writes from this almost other worldly existence she has a unique charm that makes her feel somewhat relatable. She is entirely exuberant…almost overbearingly so at times with how over the top her passion for Gershon is… I sometimes felt sorry for the guy that he was going to end up with her! Which is probably another reason why I would dearly have loved Gershon’s letters to have been saved too. Then we could really have seen the full picture of their love story and not have to fill in the blanks.
I also felt that this book suffered from a lack of editing. It was certainly too long and many of the letters seemed superfluous to the wartime love story narrative and unfortunately, on occasion, I found myself having to force my attention to stay focused on the writing. I would quite happily have ditched the letters at the beginning of the book pre outbreak of war and cropped a few more that were interspersed throughout the text.
Overall this was a book of some hits and some misses for me. I would probably only recommend it to true history buffs who are curious to read more eye witness accounts of what life was like back in World War II rather than a casual reader of the time period such as myself.
*An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Publishing: 30 April 2020, William Collins