French Letters, Book One Virginia's War: Tierra, Texas 1944
Author: Jack Woodville London
Publisher: Vire Press (2009)
Binding: Paperback, 224 pages
French Letters: Virginia's War is a poignant novel that earned uncommon critical acclaim, being named a finalist for "Best Novel of the South," an award given by the Anderson Foundation in honor of Willie Morris and a finalist for the Military Writers Society of America award for Best Historical Novel of the Year.
This first book of the French Letters trilogy is the tale of one woman's home front experience, set against the back drop of the story of a small town that has plenty going on behind the scenes. It was there one morning that an unexpectedly pregnant Virginia Sullivan read in her father's newspaper that she had supposedly eloped with a soldier. This is news to Virginia, not to mention her "husband" Will Hastings, who was already off at war and knows nothing of it.
Sullivan is the daughter of a small town's leading figure, a newspaper owner who, because of his knowledge of everyone's personal business, runs the local black market in ration coupons and hard-to-get tires and gasoline, and sister of Bart, a draft dodger who runs the post office while keeping her mail from going or coming and preventing Will Hastings, the lead figure in French Letters: Engaged in War, from knowing that Virginia is pregnant or that her father has published a phony story.
There may be a World War going on thousands of miles away, but there's plenty going on behind the scenes in Tierra, TX to keep Virginia preoccupied.
MWSA 2009 2nd Runner Up for Fiction, Historical
Set in the spring of 1944, "Virginia's War" chronicles six months in the life of a small Texas town as its inhabitants struggle with everyday existence in the backdrop of WWII.
Although war is raging a world away for Captain Will Hastings, life back home in Tierra, Texas goes on pretty much as usual with the exception of food rationings and other hardships brought on by the war. Unbeknownst to Captain Hastings, the entire community is under the impression that he and hometown beauty, Miss Virginia Sullivan, have recently tied the knot--a deception perpetrated by the father of the shockingly unwed and pregnant, Virginia.
"Virginia's War is beautifully written and centers around the scandals, cover-ups, and politics of life in a small town where everybody knows everybody--or so they think.
The front cover of "Virginia's War" has a lovely, nostalgic feel to it complete with an image of a winsome Virginia clasping handwritten letters from her soldier. I enjoyed having the visual of the heroine in my mind as I read her story.
The author offers a unique perspective of Virginia's "adult" dilemma as viewed through the eyes of an endearing adolescent boy named Sandy Clayton. Mr. London captures the boy's infectious personality and unique viewpoint perfectly, giving the reader multiple chances to chuckle and reminisce about the innocence of childhood.
Author Jack London sets a marvelous stage with which to draw the reader into his story, beginning with a taste of scandal in the prologue that divulges just enough conflict to whet the reader's appetite for more. He closes with an ending that leaves the reader satisfied but curious as to how the saga will unfold in the subsequent two volumes.
"Virginia's War" is extremely well written, authentic to the time period, and very entertaining.
Reviewed by: Claudia Pemberton (2009)