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The Soldier's Wife

The Soldier's Wife

4.1 112
by Margaret Leroy

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A novel full of grand passion and intensity, The Soldier's Wife asks "What would you do for your family?", "What should you do for a stranger?", and "What would you do for love?"

As World War II draws closer and closer to Guernsey, Vivienne de la Mare knows that there will be sacrifices to be made. Not just for herself, but for her two young daughters and for


A novel full of grand passion and intensity, The Soldier's Wife asks "What would you do for your family?", "What should you do for a stranger?", and "What would you do for love?"

As World War II draws closer and closer to Guernsey, Vivienne de la Mare knows that there will be sacrifices to be made. Not just for herself, but for her two young daughters and for her mother-in-law, for whom she cares while her husband is away fighting. What she does not expect is that she will fall in love with one of the enigmatic German soldiers who take up residence in the house next door to her home. As their relationship intensifies, so do the pressures on Vivienne. Food and resources grow scant, and the restrictions placed upon the residents of the island grow with each passing week. Though Vivienne knows the perils of her love affair with Gunther, she believes that she can keep their relationship--and her family--safe. But when she becomes aware of the full brutality of the Occupation, she must decide if she is willing to risk her personal happiness for the life of a stranger.

Includes a reading group guide for book clubs.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Leroy (Postcards from Berlin) continues to explore motherhood and marital infidelity, now in the context of the German occupation of the British Channel Islands during WWII. Vivienne de la Mare loves her young daughters Blanche and Millie, but not her marriage, so when her husband is called up to the front, for her it's almost a relief. Then the German army occupies her town, and Vivienne is increasingly torn between her sympathies for the POWs and her budding feelings for Gunther, a German officer who has moved in next door. She and Gunther begin an affair, but she remains committed to protecting and nurturing her daughters as they grow up in this tense, dangerous environment, with waning hope of their father's return. Leroy lovingly portrays the era and the isolated Guernsey landscape while simultaneously offering an unsparing view of the specific horrors of war. Colorful, rich descriptions, particularly regarding food, are more affecting than depictions of Vivienne and her love affair, which is almost entirely devoid of warmth or passion. More compelling are Vivienne's interactions with the preteen Millie, who becomes complicit in her mother's actions even as Vivienne tries to safeguard her innocence. (July)
Rosamund Lupton
"With its stunning and evocative description of the Guernsey landscape, its subtle and astute depiction of a woman's relationship with her children, her lover, and her husband, this absorbing novel is utterly beguiling."
From the Publisher
"With its stunning and evocative description of the Guernsey landscape, its subtle and astute depiction of a woman's relationship with her children, her lover, and her husband, this absorbing novel is utterly beguiling."—Rosamund Lupton, author of Sister
Library Journal
Vivienne de la Mare lives with her daughters Blanche, 14, and Millie, four, and her mother-in-law on the British island of Guernsey. It's 1940, and they had the chance to go to London, where her husband, Eugene, is already with the army. But Vivienne hesitated, and now the Germans have come marching into their peaceful existence. Four German soldiers have taken over the house next door, and Vivienne enters into a stilted conversation with one of them when she happens upon him in her orchard. Capt. Gunther Lehmann makes her nervous, but it has been too long since a man, since anyone, has taken an interest in her. From one shared cigarette begins a three-year love affair. Initially, Vivienne fears discovery and reprisals from her neighbors. Her friend's son suggests she could do more to thwart the enemy, but, she thinks, what can one person do? When Millie talks about a ghost she encounters at play, Vivienne dismisses these imaginings until she herself sees the man, a prisoner working for the Germans. Maybe one person can do something. VERDICT Leroy's (Yes, My Darling Daughter) beautifully rendered tale demonstrates how the longing for normalcy during wartime can vanquish, even briefly, distrust and uncover common ground. Highly recommended, especially for readers who appreciated Michael Wallner's April in Paris. [Library marketing; online reading group guide.]—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews

Leroy, whose fiction specializes in prickly mothers, turns from the paranormal (Yes, My Darling Daughter, 2009, etc.) to the historical in this story of torn loyalties during the World War II German occupation of the isle of Guernsey.

Originally from London, Vivienne has lived in Guernsey since she married Eugene, with whom she has had a loveless marriage. In 1940, with Eugene away in the military, Vivienne lives with her increasingly senile mother-in-law and her daughters, 4-year-old Millie and 14-year-old Blanche. Beset by indecision, Vivienne misses the chance to leave Guernsey with the girls before the Germans take over the island. Her anxiety, already high after German bombing kills a friend's husband, rises when German soldiers move into the vacant house next door. But she also finds herself attracted to one of the captains, Gunther Lehmann, who offers her small favors like chocolate candy and a ride home in the rain. She rather quickly succumbs, and soon he is sneaking into her arms every night at 10 sharp. Vivienne compartmentalizes her passion for Gunther, her protectiveness toward her girls and her patriotic anger at the Germans. The lovers discuss their pasts but avoid the reality of their situation; it helps that Gunther evinces no respect for Hitler. When gossip spreads about her fraternizing, Vivienne skillfully defuses suspicion. Harder to ignore is the information she discovers about inhumane labor camps on Guernsey. By the third winter, the Germans begin to deport and incarcerate non-natives like Vivienne, but Gunther keeps her safe. Meanwhile, through Millie, Vivienne meets and helps an escapee from the labor camp. She is preparing the escapee's breakfast one morning when Gunther shows up unexpectedly. She is not sure how much he knows or suspects, but shortly afterward, the escapee is tracked down and shot. Assuming he turned her in, she breaks with Gunther, only to learn the truth too late, after he has been transferred to the Eastern front.

Vivienne's measured, astringent voice is riveting and her moral ambiguity deliciously disturbing until the disappointingly maudlin ending.

Claudia Deane
…hits all the sweet spots: forbidden love, familial loyalties, agonizing moral dilemmas and the awesome responsibilities of motherhood.
—The Washington Post

Product Details

Hachette Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Margaret Leroy studied music at Oxford and has been a music therapist, play leader, shop assistant, and social worker. For fifteen years she has worked as a social worker and counselor, specializing in marital therapy and child protection. Her books have been published in nine languages, and her first novel, Trust, has been translated into five languages and was broadcast in February 2003 as a Granada TV drama.

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The Soldier's Wife 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 112 reviews.
MichiganBlue More than 1 year ago
**Review of Advanced Reading Edition** Husband off to war, caring for two girls and an addled mother-in-law, our heroine, Vivienne, must quickly decide if she should evacuate to the mainland from Guernsey and the Channel Islands. Each choice is fraught with potential problems. It's early in World War II and England herself is being bombed. London, where Vivienne has connections, is perilous. An impending invasion by the Nazis carries unknown risks, but rumors are rife. Surely the War won't last long? At the last, she packs up her daughters and trundles granny to a neighbor. Waiting to board the last boat out, she belatedly opts for perceived safety once she sees the tiny boat and the numbers of refugees queuing to board her. And this only takes us through the first 25 pages! Vivenne must live with this decision, despite bombings, deprivation and the stationing of Nazi officers at the house next door. Where does compromise to survive bleed into complicity with the enemy? How does one raise teenagers in wartime? How far does one go to protect a stranger? I truly enjoyed this book. The description of the bombing of the harbor was particularly harrowing. Leroy's portrayal of the daughters, one in grade school, the other a teenager were spot on. So believable. Also ringing true was the relationship with the mother-in-law whose mind is starting to wander. These are true, fleshed out characterizations. The story is fast paced - the pages just kept on turning. I wish the love story with Gunther was equally compelling. Yes, it is forbidden, yes, it was alive with danger, but no, it didn't work for me. Because the other story lines were so involving, I kept with it to the end, although I would have been quite happy without the epilogue.
lisajjb More than 1 year ago
Good story of civilian life during WWII in occupied channel island Guernsey. She is torn between caring for her daughters and mother-in-law, embarking on a love affair with a German captain and trying not to ignore the suffering of the Todt workers on her island. Very good story and writing.
Morgie More than 1 year ago
"writing ruins recreational reading ... but it can't be helped." I was immediately captured by Margaret Leroy's storytelling ability. One minute I was sitting poolside, the next, I was in Guernsey during World War II and following Vivienne de la Mare as she copes with life and family, love and responsibility, and an uncertain future for all. Ms. Leroy is an excellent writer who knows how to draw the reader into the story, and she does so efforlessly. Writers pay attention to how she writes description ... and introduces the characters. She never drops the ball. Readers this is the perfect summer read. You would be selfish not to share this story with your friends. Patricia Punt
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book comes out later this month and I was able to get an advance copy. When I read the synopsis and found out this story takes place in Guernsey during WWII, I was a little irritated because it seemed a repeat of the book Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I ended up liking it better than Guernsey partially because Guernsey is told in a series of letters the main characters write to each other which doesn't seem to delve deeply enough into the story. The main character is Vivienne, a soldier's wife left to take care of her two children and ailing mother in law. After she fails to leave Guernsey, she is forced to deal with the Nazi Occupation of their island. Soon she finds herself in a love affair with the German Officer living next door. Hiding her affair from her family and community, she is forced to make a choice when her daughter befriends a prisoner in one of the Nazi work camps. Vivienne is not a strong person. She doesn't marry her husband for love, which results in a marriage only in name and not emotion. She is plagued with indecision when faced with the choice to take her children to London before the Occupation, or to stay. After the German's occupy Guernsey, she finds herself fumbling with how she should behave. She tries to harden herself against the Germans they are at war with but finds herself lusting over the Officer next door. In spite of the attitudes of her family and community, she continues her secret love affair because of the need and lack of physical intimacy she has had in her life. Only after helping a prisoner in the Nazi work camp, is she able to question how well she knows the man she is falling in love with. The reality of the War is that not everyone was able to take a hard, strong stance. Vivienne behaves very selfishly in her affair but then makes up for it by risking her life to help someone else. She ends up being a very reluctant heroine. I felt the story was slow progressing and then the ending was rushed compared to the speed of the rest book. I really enjoyed the the author's imagery and descriptive writing.
Saamm_ More than 1 year ago
Veryy good story ive never read anything like it. Buy it. Read it. You'll love it.
lioness2001 More than 1 year ago
First few pages won me over. Wonderfully descriptive without being overly so.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed all the characters especially her younger daughter's key part in the story. Very interesting and also sad at times. You learned how people at a tough time worked and helped each other and used everything they had and wasted nothing. Good read. I would like to look for more books by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. I especially loved Millie, the youngest daughter of the main character, Vivienne. The story was heartbreaking in parts. I really felt for Vivienne, and all she had to endure. She grew and changed in many ways as the story progressed and the war and occupation continued. There were harrowing moments as well as tender oned that kept me reading and interested in the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm having problems getting through this book. It's really slow reading and shallow. I'm not connecting with the characters either. I've enjoyed reading other books about war, occupation and interaction with the enemy, so it's not the topic. I don't think I would read another book by this authori.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great characters. Very entertaining.
sneps More than 1 year ago
This is a story that will evoke emotions from you and you will either love this book or hate it. While there are many issues that can get nit-picked, I overall loved this story. True, there are situations in this book that are not very believable and will certainly cause a reader or two to really question the authenticity of this storyline. However, I really fell in love with Vivienne and her daughters. While the love affair between Vivienne and Gunther didn¿t seem very plausible and the ending had me re-reading chapters, I did love the relationship between her and her daughters. This is a story with WWII and the Nazi invasion of this beautiful as a backdrop, but it really is about the strength and perseverance of a woman and the love she has for her daughters. I did love Gunther and wished the relationship between both of them would have been further explored, as well as the deplorable conditions that they really were living in, however felt that it would also have taken away from the primary story in some way. I found myself crying in some parts, laughing in others, and wanting more in the end. I read this book over the course of 2 nights, which goes to show that even though there are some gaps in the book, this book was amazing and it left me wishing there were more chapters! Overall, I recommend this book to anyone that loves a good love story, reading about the relationships and dynamics between mother and daughter, and the ways in which WWII changed and impacted lives.
llamamia More than 1 year ago
The Soldier's Wife is a touching story of love and survival and what it takes to endure when life is turned upside down by war. Leroy's lyrical writing brings to life the island of Guernsey and the inhabitants during WWII. The characters are nicely developed, especially Vivienne and her spunky daughter, Millie, and the reader feels tremendous empathy for the difficult choices that need to be made. A warm, sad tale with a bitter sweet ending...I loved it!
Christmasmom More than 1 year ago
Suspenseful, emotional, and thought provoking. I loved the rich description of Guernsey landscape and the historical background of the time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MCri More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! There were parts where I felt it dragged a bit, but at the end I was so happy with the outcome, I recommended to many of  my friends and they loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is absolutely an amazing story that will always be remembered in your heart! I couldn't stop reading it and didn't want it to ever end.
Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
The main thing that I really enjoyed about this book was although it went at an enormously slow pace it was the detailed writing that made it really good. The story itself was also really good, despite the theme being bleak and only gets much more bleaker towards the ending. The writing throughout the book was very well done I especially liked the descriptions of the island, despite the war theme, the island was separated from all that and really seemed like a beautiful place to be. The beginning of the book goes pretty slow. Well, the pace is actually pretty slow throughout, however it’s fitting because it’s like living on this island, time seems to go slow since it’s not really directly involved in the war (not so much as other countries that is). It picks up a little through the second half although not considerably. The characters in the book seem to be very well done. Vivienne and Gunther together just seemed to fit well. I’d rather hoped the outcome would have been different for the both of them but their endings were very well done and realistic in accordance to the time period of the story. Despite the slow pace of the book, it’s still worth a read. The bleak theme and the idyllic setting is an interesting contrast but provides a good balance between the two. It’s a well written dramatic plot that will stick with you even after you finish the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lina92 More than 1 year ago
I disliked everything about the book. I could not get through it and I found myself skipping whole pages to see if it got interesting towards the end. Eventually I gave up and stopped reading. never finished the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a heart warming read about a woman coping with life in difficult times. All members of my book club loved it...including a man!
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Kenzer More than 1 year ago
A great read! This book made me so anxious and on the edge of my seat. A surprising scandal and a gripping story. I kept wanting more.
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