3 out of 4 stars
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War Serenade by Jill Wallace is a love story set in South Africa during World War II. Iris is a young British woman living in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. While there isn’t direct fighting in the British colony, they are still seeing the effects of the war. Her brother joined the war as a pilot and is fighting in Europe. There is a Prisoner of War (POW) camp set up just outside of her town in which Italian soldiers who were captured are being held. She’s even made her own efforts to help out with the war by volunteering in the hospital.
Pietro is an Italian POW housed in the camp in Pietermaritzburg. His plane was shot down, and he barely survived. He was rescued at the price of being a prisoner. He’s lost all hope and sees no joy in life. That all changes when he gets a glimpse of Iris through the fence. When their eyes meet, there is an instant connection that is unlike anything either of them has ever felt before. How does love work when the two people are on opposite sides of the war? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
I am a huge fan of World War II stories. It’s one of the few time periods in historical fiction that I enjoy. This book offered a very unique perspective on the war. I always think about Europe, Russia, The United States, and Japan when I think about World War II. It never even crossed my mind that the war would have affected South Africa due to their colonization by the British. When I think about the different camps that held prisoners during the war, I think of the German concentration camps in Europe and the internment camps for the Japanese Americans in the U.S. I honestly wouldn’t have thought of POW camps housing Italian soldiers in South Africa. I love how much this book opened my mind up to all of the different aspects of the war.
I also really enjoyed the love story told throughout this book. Forbidden love is one of those topics that can be used over and over, and I still find myself immersed every time. This book was no exception. The love story between Iris and Pietro really pulled me in. I loved that the book switched perspectives between the two characters, so I really got to see it from both sides.
While I really enjoyed the story itself, there were a couple of negative aspects of the book. The first was that it took a long time to pick up. The background given was often extensive and could easily have been condensed. I found myself wanting to stop reading several times in the first quarter of the book because it got to be tiring to read. There were also a couple of erotic scenes that really dragged on. They didn’t add to the story and could easily have been omitted.
Another issue I had with the book was the lack of editing. There were several distracting errors throughout the book that I just couldn’t overlook. For example, the name “Gregg” was also spelled “Greg”, and the punctuation was inconsistent. I would definitely suggest another round of editing for this book.
Keeping those pros and cons in mind, I give this book 3 out of 4 stars. It started off slow, but I really got into it by the end. If it didn’t drag in the beginning and the errors were fixed, I would probably consider giving it a perfect score. As written, I had to take away one star. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves romance and who is interested in different perspectives of World War II.
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