This is Iris Jones Simantel’s second memoir detailing her life after the Second World War. After surviving evacuation and the Blitz of WWII, Iris returns to her poverty stricken family in London. One day she is swept off her feet by US soldier Bob Irvine and they marry soon after her 16th Birthday before setting sail to America with dreams of love and prosperity. However, reality soon comes knocking. Cramped in a noisy flat in Chicago, baby on the way and an increasingly distant husband, Iris is desperately lonely. In the midst of her despair Iris has to work hard to carve out a life in the land of hope and opportunity.
I had high hopes for this novel and being a memoir I was ready to be riveted. Unfortunately, Iris seems to be shy on giving too much of an insight into her life ending up with a slightly dull commentary. The narrative lacked the depth and emotion I expected and what Iris’s life deserved, in this respect I feel she sold herself short.
However, as a lover of history I did find the detail about life after WWII and the impact on women in society both in Britain and America very interesting. The firsthand accounts from Iris concerning her struggles growing up and starting a family away from home and the pressure to conform were fascinating as were the sections featuring the different support network for the GI brides. However, this detail was only on the surface of the narrative and again I would have loved Iris to have been explored these sections in greater detail.
I found the style of writing very simplistic and at times it was as if I was reading a list of chronological events rather than a story about someone’s life. For example, at one point there’s a fire under the hood of a car bonnet and then all of a sudden a fire truck is passing by. Obviously it’s not my role to say these things didn’t occur in such a manner but these extracts peppered with a ‘couldn’t believe my luck,’ attitude often read as unbelievable.
This second foray into the world of Iris Jones Simantel had the potential for a really interesting insight into women’s social history post-WWII, however this didn’t quite hit the mark for me.
Iris Jones Simantel’s Website