'A second war. A second chance.
In December 1941, Charlotte Donahue is engaged to Nick Adler, a handsome, pre-law student at Georgetown University. Despite her studies at a liberal arts college, she expects nothing more than to marry her fiancé and settle into a conventional life as a young American homemaker. But her future is unexpectedly disrupted after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. While Nick trains for the battlefront with the U.S. Army, Charlotte does her part by volunteering as a nurses’ aide with the American Red Cross.
Assigned to a convalescent ward at Walter Reed’s Army Medical Center, Charlotte discovers her passion lies, not in the home, but in tending to the wounds of injured soldiers, all of whom remind her of Nick. Here she is drawn to a mysterious soldier, Lieutenant William Kendrick, whose jet was shot down in the skies over Germany. As Will’s physical and psychological wounds begin to heal, he and Charlotte develop a friendship that will bind them together in ways they never imagined.
Battle Hymns is a poignant story of love, survival, and redemption set against the backdrop of the Second World War.'
It's no secret that I'm a fan of the First World War, but I feel my interest in the Second World War has been overlooked recently around here. Cara Langston's Battle Hymns was the perfect novel to reintroduce me into the war torn 1940's. Set in America, this gives readers a glimpse into a world which is not the Western Front.
Battle Hymns is peopled with ordinary characters. We have mothers, sons, friends, lovers, fathers and daughters. No emotion is deemed too trivial and no action too unnecessary. It was refreshing to read a novel with such characters and I felt this made it hard to not be sucked straight into the novel and their lives. The central conflict (which I won't go into as it would be a massive spoiler), is worked through in perfect detail. By which I mean that the point isn't laboured over nor passed over. The conflict is dealt with so that we see the central characters grow and change which I think has a really powerful affect. There are perhaps one too many professions of love for my liking, but actually they create a really nice contrast for that central conflict (sorry, being all cryptic here).
Something I particularly liked about this novel is the absence of moralising. Often war novels fall very clearly into a 'camp', whether it's anti-war or overly patriotic. This novel doesn't do that, rather it focuses on the people and enables the reader to make their own judgements. War isn't the key feature here, it is more a backdrop which Langston uses to explore the depths of human emotion.
I don't think this novel is anything ground breaking, but it was a mighty good, thought provoking read. I sped through it in a couple of days and the relationship between Charlotte and Nick, and later her friendship with Will, truly have stuck with me. This is a novel about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances that really makes you question which path you would take if in their situation. I'd recommend this for any fans of historical fiction set in the 1940's and the Second World War, particularly if you're interested in the way events can shape lives. If you need any more help deciding whether it's worth adding to your bulging TBR piles, just take a look at that cover - gorgeous.
About the Author
Cara is a novelist of historical fiction. She has two novels in the works. Battle Hymns is a historical romance set in Washington, D.C. from 1941 to 1943. It will be published on June 3, 2014. The Glassmaker’s Wife is a historical romance set in 1925 Chicago and is still very much in progress.
Cara has been an avid reader – especially of historical fiction, classics, and mystery novels – since she was young. She read all of the American Girl books when she was in 5th grade, even though her parents could not afford to buy her a doll. In middle school, she was obsessed with the only two Ann Rinaldi books in the school library. They taught her about the 1770 Boston Massacre and the Salem Witch Trials before her history classes ever did. And that was when Cara’s love of historical fiction was born. She didn’t begin writing, though, until her senior year at the University of Georgia, where she studied Finance and had already committed to a career in the corporate world. One day she will be able to quit working for The Man and focus on her writing. Until then, it pays the bills.
When she’s not writing or working, Cara enjoys drinking red wine, watching bad television, doing genealogical research, obsessing over the Duchess of Cambridge’s every outfit, and finding the best guacamole in Texas. Cara currently lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband and their dog.
For more information please visit Cara Langston’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.