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"I just finished this book. It was too interesting to put down. I finished reading it in two days."
--Bob Plass, 518th Radio Relay Co., Korea, 1951-53
From the Author
service. Members of the "Greatest Generation" didn't talk about the war.
That was certainly true of my father, but in addition to that, he died when I was 18, so I didn't get to know him really well. When I received almost 300 of my parents letters from the war, I realized my dad had witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor and combat on other Pacific islands.
On top of that, I stumbled upon a family secret amid my research that explained my dad's volatile behavior. This book is part creative nonfiction, history, and memoir. I hope you enjoy it and that it will encourage you to discover your own parent's wartime experience.
- ASIN : B01N2R4EKN
- Publisher : Burkwood Media Publishing (December 6, 2016)
- Publication date : December 6, 2016
- Language: : English
- File size : 46942 KB
- Simultaneous device usage : Unlimited
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 318 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,458,724 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Wed while he was home on furlough, letter-writing provided the author's parents their only communication for much of their courtship and first few years of their marriage. Built around these letters is Ms. Williams' attempt to make sense of her father, an at-times difficult man who died of leukemia at the age of only 51.
After a (too?) short introductory chapter, the bulk of the book consists of their letters, interspersed with short entries from the author providing background material about the individuals mentioned, the specifics of her father's unit, the larger progress of the war or (then) current events.
As to the good, the wealth of details provided by Mr. Gilmore (Herb) about his soldiering in Hawai'i both before and after December 7th 1941, and later, Pacific Island hopping, makes for fascinating reading. As much as the 'we' of today like to romanticize the WWII era, it was a long, hard (and of course dangerous) slog for all who served.
During the Second World War those in the service (and at home) were prolific letter-writers, and one gets a fairly good sense of Herb Gilmore: an honorable, if somewhat judgmental individual who had an artistic eye, enjoyed a game of tennis and adored his wife. Mrs. Gilmore (Ann) comes across less vividly, but her letters do provide an account of what it was like to be a soldier's wife, and what life in the US was like, during that period.
A real highlight of the book are the many wonderful photographs and pieces of ephemera from her father's collection. Another strength is the way the Ms. Williams is able to marshal her research to deftly provide just enough context between the letters to clarify points of information and help the narrative, but not so much as to interrupt the flow or drift into digressions. The author is an able writer, but gratifyingly resists any urge to step on the letters, instead allowing the material speak for itself.
Slightly less successful, in this reviewer's opinion, is the 'second' part of the story, the author's attempts to understand her father and her family through these letters. I don't know that the introductory chapter gives a full enough picture of her family and its dynamics, so that when the correspondence section ends and the book enters its final portion, Ms. William's interviews with family members and her journey of personal understanding, it hadn't been made entirely clear to this reader why the author was sure there was a mystery to be unraveled about her father and her family.
As to the mystery, or secret, if you prefer, Ms. Williams draws her conclusions based on rather slender evidence. It's not all conjecture, a couple of curious tales are revealed via her interviews, but a fair amount consists of citing a line of a letter here and there. She engages in some, for lack of a better term, psychoanalyzing, which goes with the territory of trying to untangle parent-parent or parent-child relationships, but again, I didn't feel as if I knew these people well enough to nod my head in agreement with the author. I respect her conclusions based on the totality of her experiences and research, but I was left wanting a bit more.
Overall, an interesting collection of correspondence between a soldier serving in the Pacific before and during WWII, and his wife, one that provides fine contemporaneous accounts of their lives. The impressive amount of research conducted by Ms. Williams complements the letters in an informative, yet concise and readable manner. If the framing of these letters by her personal quest perhaps doesn't quite work as well as the author intended, it's only in the sense that I wished that part was more fleshed-out. Recommended, especially for the descriptive details of an American GI's life in the Pacific Theater, along with some terrific photographs.
Herb was actually stationed in Hawaii during the Pearl Harbor attack, and I found it riveting to see the event through his eyes. From Herb's correspondence, we learn just how much the American troops were utterly blindsided by the Pearl Harbor attack.
Also riveting were the day-to-day descriptions of Herb's life as a soldier during the war, especially as we witnessed the horrendous living conditions the soldiers endured on the Pacific Islands, including a variety of tropical diseases, filth, mosquitoes, loneliness, and boredom. So in this way, the reader gets an account of the personal history of a soldier as well as a national account of WWII from a solder's perspective, all of which makes for fascinating reading. The inclusion of the numerous photos from Herb's collection also added to the richness of the book.
The reason for the research and the subsequent book was the author's quest to better understand her father, who was a difficult man and was prone to rages during the author's childhood. Through the massive correspondence between her parents as well as from interviewing family members, the author draws conclusions and believes she's uncovered some family secrets — or more aptly, her father's secret life. Truth be told, I wasn't all that convinced as the conclusions drawn were based on relatively weak evidence.
Additionally, the inferences she comes to regarding her father's behavior and the parent-child relationship dynamics in her family were based more on "armchair psychology" rather than actual objective data and scientific observations, all I which I had a difficult time buying into. So the father's secret part of the book at which the title and blurb both hinted didn't really work for me. It's also worth mentioning that the author's theory about her father's hidden life wasn't discussed until the very end of the book so if you're expecting a deep-dive into Herb's secret life, you may be disappointed.
Family dynamics aside, I did find this a compelling read about an army soldier serving in the Pacific during WWII. The detailed correspondence between the author's parents made for a gripping read, especially for people who enjoy reading wartime correspondence/stories. I found this book to be a poignant and moving account of an American GI's life during the war and enjoyed the historical aspect of the book as well as the marvelous photographs.