March 29, 2019
Beantown Girls by Jane Healey
Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, WW11, Red Cross Clubmobiles, Romance
*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
In Beantown Girls, three best friends conspire to serve their country during WW11 by joining the Red Cross as Clubmobile girls: Fiona is admired for her organizational and leadership skills; Viviana is adventuresome and outspoken; and Dottie is a shy music teacher. Healey uses a linear timeline to tell the story from Fiona’s point of view, and we soon discover that Fiona’s primary objective in this venture is to find more information about her fiance who is missing in action. To qualify as Clubmobile girls, the young women were chosen for their inner strength and outer charm, but none of them were prepared for the realities of war or the front lines. In addition to the Clubmobile story line focus, there is a bit of romance for the girls, too.
Image Source: National Public Radio
Sometimes the enjoyability factor is the main consideration in declaring a book a great read. This is how I felt after finishing Beantown Girls: “That was a great read!”
Characters: Fiona, Viviana, and Dottie feel like your best friends! They are realistically drawn, their ideals are admirable (also naive), their friendship is strong and supportive, and their first experiences as Clubmobile girls could be titled “The Bad News Bears Join the Red Cross and Serve Their Country.” Although challenging and different from what they expected, they persevere and don’t give up. They learn their jobs, are courageous in danger, become excellent problem solvers, and are each other’s best cheer leader.
Writing: After reading many books with two or more time lines and following stories told from multiple perspectives, the straight forward way in which Beantown Girls was written made for a relaxing and quick read. I didn’t have to stop at the beginning of each chapter and think about where I was in the timeline or remember which character’s perspective I would be hearing. The reading experience provides an appreciated change of pace from other more complicated structures, and I think more simplistic writing mirrors the innocence and naivety of these 25-year-old girls. In addition to sprinkling humor and light-hearted banter into the story, the author provides an abundance of vivid details about Clubmobiles, the experience of the women, and the role of Clubmobiles on military bases. Learning about history is the joy of reading well researched historical fiction. It often causes me to wonder what I would have done in this period of history.
Personal Preference: One part of the writing that was less appreciated was the use of “Jesus” as profanity. If this offends you as a Christian, I would estimate that there are between 15-20 instances of this in the story. Honestly, it was enough to hold me back from giving this a full five stars endorsement. Not only was I personally offended, but I wondered if this type of profanity was even used that much by women in the 1940s. It seemed a bit anachronistic. Again, this is a personal concern and may not affect your reading experience.
Plot: When the author quickly immerses me into the story in the first few pages, it predisposes me to a higher star rating! This quick engagement is also a good indication for the page turning pace of the entire book, and I wasn’t disappointed. Despite including a great deal of historical facts, the story has an unputdownable quality that makes for a fast read. I also appreciated plenty of action that helped move the plot forward.
One comment that I see in other reviews is a reference to the role of women as simply comforting, beautiful distractions for men. Yes, the main role of the Red Cross Clubmobile girls on the base is to serve coffee and doughnuts, dance with the soldiers, and provide good conversation, kindness, and reassurance. Yes, it is uncomfortable for modern women to read about women portrayed in this manner, but I chose to take it in the historical context in which it was meant and feel grateful that perceptions of women are different today. *Spoiler: the girls end up doing so much more than this!
Themes: This would make a great book club discussion because of some important themes that include: friendship, loyalty, bravery, courage, camaraderie, service to country, role of women in the 1940s and during wartime, new dreams, and love.
Recommended: I highly recommend Beantown Girls as an inspiring and uplifting story of friendship and service to country. As WW11 stories go, this is a milder and more light-hearted read than some (although the girls do experience some heartbreak and get caught up in a battle at the front). Recommended for fans of well told and well researched WW11 historical fiction, for readers who appreciate stories of brave, independent, and determined women who are difference makers, and for those who are looking for a compelling and engaging read (with a sprinkling of romance!).
My Rating: 4.5 Stars (Rounded to 5 Stars on Goodreads)
Meet the Author, Jane Healey
Jane Healey shares a home north of Boston with her husband, two daughters, and two cats. When she’s not writing historical fiction, she enjoys running, reading, cooking and going to the beach.
For more information on the author, her work and upcoming events:
Twitter and Instagram:@healeyjane
Are you familiar with the Red Cross Clubmobile program?
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In a few days look for my March Wrap Up.
Winter and Spring TBR
I’ll be providing my last update for my Winter TBR as I read the last selection.
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