Monday, February 4, 2019

Book Review: The Beantown Girls by Jane Healy

The Beantown Girls
 by Jane Healy

Amazon US / UK / CA / AU / B&N

A novel of love, courage, and danger unfolds as World War II’s brightest heroines—the best of friends—take on the front lines.

1944: Fiona Denning has her entire future planned out. She’ll work in city hall, marry her fiancé when he returns from the war, and settle down in the Boston suburbs. But when her fiancé is reported missing after being shot down in Germany, Fiona’s long-held plans are shattered.

Determined to learn her fiancé’s fate, Fiona leaves Boston to volunteer overseas as a Red Cross Clubmobile girl, recruiting her two best friends to come along. There’s the outspoken Viviana, who is more than happy to quit her secretarial job for a taste of adventure. Then there’s Dottie, a shy music teacher whose melodious talents are sure to bring heart and hope to the boys on the front lines.

Chosen for their inner strength and outer charm, the trio isn’t prepared for the daunting challenges of war. But through it all come new friendships and romances, unforeseen dangers, and unexpected dreams. As the three friends begin to understand the real reasons they all came to the front, their courage and camaraderie will see them through some of the best and worst times of their live

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

Ready or not, we’re on our way to England. We just went through six weeks of training for these jobs. I had to learn to play badminton, for the love of God. There’s no turning back now.

I realized I was in a much better mood than when I arrived. I was supposed to be the one boosting their spirits, but instead that’s exactly what these men had done for me. Sometimes morale was a two-way street.

… my heart was aching in ways that felt very familiar and yet so different. It turns out you can care for two men at the same time, but you never care for them in the exact same way.

“We’re off the coast of a place where thousands of American men died. And we’re dancing,” she said, squinting and tilting her head, looking out across the water. “It feels a little off, don’t you think?” “I’ve thought about that,” I said, nodding, leaning over the railing. “But honestly? I think any of the men killed here would say, Damn Hitler! Play that American music and dance. It gives these men some hope and cheers them up. Helps them fight another day.”

The beach was a haunted obstacle course of foxholes, concrete pillboxes, and debris… “The captain was right… You can feel the ghosts.” I got goose pimples on my arms again when she said it, because it was true. There was a heaviness to the air that had nothing to do with the dust.

Dick kept talking as we drove, in a trance, giving us the play-by-play of all that had happened to him, like a confessional. We couldn’t have stopped him if we had tried. And from the way he was going on, I knew that he would be haunted by the images of that day until he was an old man.

The ‘front’ is all around us; it’s not one straight line marked by barbed wire and a big sign.

My Review:

In addition to top-notch entertainment, this book was eye opening and surprisingly educational.  I had no idea that Red Cross volunteers performed these functions.  It sounded rather frivolous at first – driving around in trucks to cook and serve doughnuts and coffee to soldiers in battlefield and training encampments – however, they did so much more than that.  Heinously nicknamed Doughnut Dollies, they assisted the soldiers with writing letters; entertained them with music; provided a welcome break from the horrors of war with snacks, candy, and hygiene supplies; provided a kind personal touch while talking and listened to them about their experiences and news from their families at home; provided comfort and gentle reassurance to those coming off the battlefields and POW camps; helped them exchange information to their friends between compounds; although they weren’t nurses they willingly helped in a pinch with the wounded; and anything else they could possibly do to lift morale. 

I was thoroughly engaged with this adventurous, poignant, profoundly moving and thoughtfully written story and was not surprised at all to learn that the author had performed a massive amount of research and had based her manuscript on actual events and archived writings of the brave and intrepid women who dared such hazardous feats. The storylines were beautifully crafted and expertly paced.  I adored these spunky characters and greatly admired their grit and sacrifice.  Ms. Healy’s writing was frequently emotive and tapped all the feels multiple times with considerable agility, yet was easy to follow and totally transportive.  I instantly fell into a 1944 time machine and was completely immersed in their story - living and working right beside the three brave Bostonians Fiona, Viv, and Dottie.  I could feel the rumble of the bomb blasts as well as their bone-weary fatigue, hear the jazz music playing, and smell the pungent and permeating scents of their cigarettes as well as the endless batches of doughnuts they tirelessly created. The author’s magical word skills were deft yet oceans deep; I also felt their excitement, fear, and profound heartache.  My eyes stung and my throat constricted more than once at the horrific losses and moving encounters they exchanged with their new friends and frightened soldiers.  Any writer who can move my cold heart to such extremes deserves a ten-star rating.

Empress DJ

 About the Author:


Jane Healey left a career in high tech to become a freelance writer. Her passion for historical fiction became her new career when her debut novel, The Saturday Evening Girls Club, was published in 2017. Based on the true story of a group of Jewish and Italian immigrant women in Boston’s North End at the turn of the twentieth century, the Amazon bestseller was hailed by Redbook as “a breathtaking ode to female empowerment and the American dream.”

With the release of The Beantown Girls, she continues to fulfill her dream of writing about lesser-known stories of women in American history.

She shares a home north of Boston with her husband, two daughters, and two cats, and when she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, running, cooking, and going to the beach. 

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