Book Reviews

Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham

Letters Across the SeaTitle: Letters Across the Sea
Author: Genevieve Graham
Rating: ★★★★★
Inspired by a little-known chapter of World War II history, a young Protestant girl and her Jewish neighbour are caught up in the terrible wave of hate sweeping the globe on the eve of war in this powerful love story that’s perfect for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

If you’re reading this letter, that means I’m dead. I had obviously hoped to see you again, to explain in person, but fate had other plans.

1933

At eighteen years old, Molly Ryan dreams of becoming a journalist, but instead she spends her days working any job she can to help her family through the Depression crippling her city. The one bright spot in her life is watching baseball with her best friend, Hannah Dreyfus, and sneaking glances at Hannah’s handsome older brother, Max.

But as the summer unfolds, more and more of Hitler’s hateful ideas cross the sea and “Swastika Clubs” and “No Jews Allowed” signs spring up around Toronto, a city already simmering with mass unemployment, protests, and unrest. When tensions between the Irish and Jewish communities erupt in a riot one smouldering day in August, Molly and Max are caught in the middle, with devastating consequences for both their families.

1939

Six years later, the Depression has eased and Molly is a reporter at her local paper. But a new war is on the horizon, putting everyone she cares about most in peril. As letters trickle in from overseas, Molly is forced to confront what happened all those years ago, but is it too late to make things right?

From the desperate streets of Toronto to the embattled shores of Hong Kong, Letters Across the Sea is a poignant novel about the enduring power of love to cross dangerous divides even in the darkest of times—from the #1 bestselling author of The Forgotten Home Child.

I received this novel from NetGalley and Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

Letters Across the Sea is a story about the hardships experienced for Canadians both fighting in unfamiliar lands and those who stayed behind. The novel follows Molly, a girl who dreams of one day becoming a journalist, but is doing whatever she can to provide for her family during the Depression, and Max, a Jewish boy dreaming of being a doctor, but enlisted to serve his country. With tensions raised because of discrimination against Jews and suffering caused by the Depression, many families are struggling to find enough food to eat, jobs, and a sense of belonging. 

Graham introduces readers to a battle fought in WW2 that many are not familiar with. I’m a big WW2 history buff, but I have never heard of this devastating battle, possibly because it consisted of Canadian troops. This novel spurred me wanting to research other countries’ battles in wars that the United States was involved in. I believe that sometimes we are only shown the side of history that may not necessarily hold the full story. Who knew how involved the Canadians were? Not me! 

The historical aspect displayed by Graham shows an interesting side to WW2 that is very rarely mentioned when WW2 discussion is involved: the treatment of certain groups of people back home. Anti-Semitism is not only present in Germany, but many other countries. While everyone can give their lives to help with the war, the people back home have a hard time accepting one another because of differences. Protests are not usually mentioned with WW2, but many people were wanting the right to heard and treated the same as everyone else, whether it be with getting a job, being able to enter establishments, or anything we take for granted.

While the story was predictable, this was such a fun and fast read! I felt like I was living my past life / the life I want (haha). Readers who love romance with a historical twist will love this novel.

Letters Across the Sea is a story of two completely different people who find themselves finding love in the most unlikely of places, especially when it seems like everything and everyone is trying to tear them apart. Basham expertly weaves together the past and later in a story of love, diversity, and the power of forgiveness.

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