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Conventional impressions of WWII's aftermath—wild celebration, triumphal return, ebullient prosperity—hide a grimmer reality, according to this somber history of postwar discontents. University of Pennsylvania historian Childers (In the Shadows of War) uses contemporary statistics and press reports to sketch the hardships returning veterans faced, including unemployment and homelessness; resentment at the years wasted in the war; alienation from family, friends and civilian life in general; and physical and psychological wounds that never healed. He builds his account around biographical narratives of three veterans: an infantryman who lost his legs to an enemy shell; an airman taken prisoner by the Germans; and Childers's father, who spent the war relatively safe in England but whose life and marriage, the author contends, were subtly darkened by the conflict. Childers's beautifully written, novelistic profiles movingly convey his subjects' wartime travails and their twilight struggles with disability and post-traumatic stress. His attempt to blame decades of dysfunction on the war sometimes overreaches; his subjects' failed marriages, business reversals and unfulfilling jobs often seem like the ordinary quiet desperation of men's lives. Still, Childers's absorbing study offers an important corrective to sanitized tributes to the Good War's legacy. Photos. (May 13)
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Childers turns from the moving account of his uncle’s death in action only days before the German surrender in 1945 (Wings of Morning, 1995) to his father’s and two other American veterans’ post–World War II experiences. Examining their adjustments to civilian life, Childers expands their stories by analyzing contemporary popular literature that advised a primarily female readership about how to receive home men who, absent for years, had changed who-knew-how. The social anxieties of this material, reflected in the film The Best Years of Our Lives and borne out in the late 1940s by a divorce-rate spike and a veterans’ protest movement, belie current society’s rather gauzy memory of happy homecomings; and the immediacy of Childers’depiction of his three central characters packs a tremendous emotional wallop. Superficially, the men made successful transitions to civilian life. But alienation and unarticulated anger stalked their resumptions of normal relations with wives and family. Childers’ literary acuity in evoking their travails yields a powerful work of social history that readers will stay with to the last page. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Editorial Reviews
I am related to one of the minor characters in the book, so I was interested in it initially because of that. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Resi3
I have little to add to the fine reviews of his book already posted. I bought it the same day an alleged Vietnam vet in front of a supermarket was selling magnets and I bought a... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Louie
This well- researsched and well-written book really brought home the universay experiences of soldiers returning from war, whether it be a "good war" as WWII is... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Judy Crowder
So much was glossed over in the rush to normalization. This book will set that straight for you. I thought I knew just about everything one person could possibly know about WWII. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Monchichipox
I read this book as a requirement for my American History II class. I, as always, dreaded the idea of having to read anything for school. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Amy Sinclair
Phenomenal insight in what our returning soldiers have to deal with. Written profoundly well by Thomas Childers. Read morePublished 22 months ago by harriet
The author digs way below the surface of the party line re: WWII, and speaks poignantly to the real ravages of war as they affect soldiers and families for generations. Read morePublished on June 28, 2013 by G. Green
I was 9 years old when WWII began, so remember many friends who were in the war and some of the problems they faced as they returned. I enjoy history of all of the US's wars. Read morePublished on April 23, 2013 by Nancy Brown