*I received a free copy of this book with thanks to the author and Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources blog tours. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Set against the backdrop of real, world-changing events, these are the stories that are forgotten in the history books.
The year is 1968 and the world is changing forever. During the month of May, students are rioting and workers are striking across the globe, civil rights are being fought and died for, nuclear bombs are being tested, there are major conflicts on every continent, and war is raging in Vietnam. Against this volatile background, three women strive to keep everything together.
Rose must keep her dignity and compassion as a West Indian nurse in East London. Amalia must keep hoping that her son can escape their seedy life in Lisbon. And Mrs Johnson in Washington DC must keep writing to her son in Vietnam. She has no-one else to talk to. Three different women, three different countries, but all striving to survive – a courageous attitude that everybody can relate to.
Although Sleeping Through War is a work of fiction, this somewhat hidden history attempts to humanise a few weeks in time that were so stuffed with monumental events that it’s easy to forget the people involved. The author was a child in 1968 and lived in London and Lisbon during the 1960s. She met women like these and didn’t want their voices to go unheard into the future. Readers of both history and literary fiction will enjoy this emotionally-vivid work that weaves fiction into fact.
Sleeping Through War is told to a backdrop of war and rebellion, but is the quiet, intimate story of what it is to be a woman.
Jackie Carreira takes the lives of three ‘ordinary’, different women and invites us in to their struggles, their joys and sorrows, their moments of contemplation and impulses to action.
There is a haunting stillness to the prose and pace, so that even as turmoil occurs in the plot, we still get a sense of strength and beauty as the women face their everyday lives with painful dignity (Amalia), practical compassion (Rose) and an achingly lonely bravery (Mrs Johnson).
The three accounts are distinct not only in their setting and characters, but in the style of narrative, with Amalia’s story told in omniscient third-person style, Rose’s as a first-person account (either a memoir or oral retelling), and Mrs Johnson’s mainly through her correspondence to her soldier son. Despite these different perspectives the author binds the reader tightly to each woman with the intimate minutiae of her thoughts, feelings and actions.
There are a few heart-wrenching moments along the way, relating to motherhood, loss and sacrifice that had me shedding a few tears for all of the characters involved, and there were a couple of twists that I hadn’t seen coming.
Mainly though this is a glimpse into the miracle of women, ordinary women, just doing what they need to do. Making it through their lives, looking out for others, and trying to find a little kindness to spare for themselves as they go.
‘Ricardo could sleep through war,’ she thought, rising from the sofa. A thick cotton, floral curtain had separated her makeshift bed from the rest of the room and she slid it back quietly to walk through it and towards the bedroom door. Amalia moved with a tired kind of grace, slowly and smoothly around the shadows of the room: table and chairs and squat sideboard with lamp. The door opened with a low moan and she pushed it gently, just enough to poke her head inside. Sure enough, Ricardo was fast asleep; one arm under his pillow, sheet twisted around his smooth, slender legs, and his face turned away from the splashes of red that invaded the walls of his room too.
‘My beautiful boy,’ she whispered, ‘dream us some luck,’ and closed the door gently to leave him alone in his dreams.
– Jackie Carreira, Sleeping Through War
Sleeping Through War is available to buy on Amazon now.
Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour! (See below for details).