Piercy, Marge. “Gone to Soldiers”, Simon & Schuster, 2015.
“Gone to Soldiers” is an epic novel about World War II that takes us from the United States to Europe, from the North African campaign to New Zealand, from Japan to Palestine and recreates the atmosphere of the wartime capitals with their sexual abandon, luxury and deprivation and terror and excitement. We get an interweaving of the stories of ten remarkable characters: a New York divorcee and writer of romances-turned-war correspondent whose ex-husband David is involved in intelligence to crack the Japanese codes, Bernice Coates, who escapes life to fly fighters as a Woman’s Airforce Service Pilot, a painter who parachutes into Nazi-occupied France to fight with the Resistance, Zachary Barrington Taylor, for whom war is the most exciting game, Jacqueline Levy-Monot, who leads Jewish children over the Pyrenees to safety, her sister, Naomi, a troubled adolescent and their cousin, Ruthie Siegal, a touching young woman who tries to keep alive her love for her boyfriend, while working on an assembly line in Detroit.
We meet six women and four men, who fought and died, worked and worried, and moved through the dizzying days of the war on this chronicle of humans in conflict with inhuman events. survival of the human spirit. The characters are well developed unusual regular people caught up in WWII.
This is a large book, 770 pages in which Marge Piercy takes us into the horror and heroism of 1939-1945. We see that good guys are not all good and that bad guys are not all bad. Women here are enjoy the new freedom of working and independence, but feel guilty about it. The emphasis really is on the women characters but this is not “chick lit.” There is a strong emphasis on following the evolution and maturation of the women cast of characters, more so than the men. Many of the characters are American Jews and we gain insight into their motivations, feelings, and actions.
There is also a lesbian subplot. I found myself really caring about the characters and I am sure they will stay with me for quite a while.