Vivienne de la Mare lives a quiet existence with her two daughters and mother-in-law on Guernsey Island; her husband Eugene is away fighting in World War 2, though their relationship was anything but close even before he left. Vivienne's life takes what will become a metamorphosis when she makes the decision to stay on the island despite the threat of German occupation; it soon becomes her duty to provide for her family and stay out of the way of the Germans living next door once the Occupation begins. What she cannot deny, however, is the unsettling fact that the Germans might be much like herself, feeling many of the same forbidden emotions; most of all, she cannot deny her deep attraction for artistic Gunther, who touches her more profoundly than Eugene ever has.
This book might be simple in its premise--forbidden love between two people whose countries are at war--but it encompasses so much more than that. Vivienne is charged with not only providing for her family but also taking risks for others throughout her island community. With her own marriage loveless, Vivienne finds solace lying in Gunther's arms late at night, but she knows how much she is risking should a discovery be made of their illicit affair. Is the love contained in one small bedroom worth the risk of an entire way of life? Can Vivienne justify the possibility of being taken from the family that so desperately needs her? The emotions are raw and the images evoked are heart wrenching.
The essence of The Soldier's Wife is quite different than the other famous book set on Guernsey, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The Soldier's Wife highlights the deprivations of both war and marriage, with no light activity to make life bearable. And while I loved TGLAPPPS, The Soldier's Wife is a deeper, more complex look at an island--both the geographical and the emotional sort. Highly recommended for the rich writing and the beauty of feeling.