Next to Love is the story of three American women caught up with World War Two. Babe, Millie and Grace are left at home whilst their husbands go to war and must deal with both the waiting and not knowing and the reality of life after the war ends, a life that will never be the same again for any of them. Broad and sweeping, Next to Love follows the lives of the three women and their children for many years and deals with a multitude of issues including bereavement, anti-semitism, grief, madness, adultery, snobbery, women in the workforce and the creation of a consumerist society.
Next to Love was one of those novels that was fun to read but that didn't make a big impression on me. The writing was smooth and flowing and I read through it quickly, but I think it suffered from trying to deal with so many issues at once. For me, all of the power and impact of the story was in the opening sections dealing with the actual war and the immediacy of grief. Some of these parts were heart-breaking to read and the subsequent chapters dealing with everything that happened years later just lacked in impact compared to that. I wanted Feldman to concentrate on just the one thing.
The multiple perspective changes could also be confusing at times. I don't know if this was just because I had a review copy on my kindle, but perspective changed a lot within chapters without any warning, which was confusing at first. I like each chapter to be from the same perspective. I also felt that the voices of the three women were distinct, but not distinct enough to warrant a lot of the perspective shifts. The voice of Babe stood out more than the voices of Grace and Millie.
Despite these issues I had with the book, reading it was an enjoyable experience. Feldman created the atmosphere of WWII America well and there were lots of nice touches, like a section dealing with the creation of the credit card and everyone being confused by it first of all. I also very much liked the ending of the story (which I didn't see coming), as it allowed me to look back on the book in a different way.
Verdict: Issue-packed story of three American women affected by WWII that loses steam towards the end.
Source: From the publisher via NetGalley
First Published: 2011
Score: 3 out of 5