I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog blitz for Sleeping Through War by Jackie Carreira. I was immediately drawn to this book because I love its title. I really enjoy war fiction; it’s usually books set during WWII that I read, so I was so excited when I saw this novel was set during the Vietnam War.
It is May 1968. Students are rioting, civil rights are being fought and died for, nuclear bombs are being tested, and war is raging in Vietnam. For three ordinary women in Lisbon, London and Washington life must go on as usual. For them, just to survive is an act of courage. How much has really changed in 50 years?
Sleeping Through War is a quietly powerful novel, very cleverly narrated, honest and tender. As the blurb states this novel focuses on the lives of three women, and the narration style is different for each woman, this was so effective in giving each women a distinct voice and ensuring there is no confusion between the switching narratives.
Firstly, Amalia in Lisbon, her story is narrated in third person. I didn’t take to Amalia as quickly as I took to the other two women, I think that’s because the novel opens with her narration and I just had to get my barings and settle into the read. But over the course of the book, she grew on me, in her bid as a single mother to provide the very best for her son, Ricardo. Survival may be an act of courage, but it’s hard and it gets even harder at night-time.
“Ricardo could sleep through war. It’s just as well.”
Next up is Rose in London, her story is narrated in first person, and was my favourite storyline. Rose, born and raised in St. Lucia, is working in London as a nurse. The use of the first-person narrative always adds a sense of intimacy, so I think that really helps the reader feel close to Rose, whereas you’re more of an observer with a third person narrative. It was just a joy to be privy to all aspects of Rose’s life: her work life, her home life, particularly her relationship with her neighbour who she adopted a mothering role with, her social life, combined with hearing about her family back home in St. Lucia, arguably makes Rose the character you get to know the best. She has a kind and caring nature, one of those people who is liked by everyone because of who they are, not because of who they’re trying to be. But what really warmed my heart with Rose was you get this real sense that she is humble, though she doesn’t have much, she is thankful for everything she does have, and she’s just looking for her little piece of happiness. Also, I loved her injections of humour, when times are bleak, humour can be a life saver.
“I love that about England. It’s the only country in the world that respects a queue.”
Last, but by no means least, is Mrs Johnson in Washington, her story is narrated in a series of letters to her son who is fighting in Vietnam. This storyline really added a sense of tenderness to this novel, it really portrayed how war is not only hard for those who go off to fight but for those left behind.
Interspersed throughout these narratives are a series of news articles that were widely reported during the war, they feature events from around the world and are historically accurate. These really help place you in the time period the novel is set, they create a real sense of what things were like around the world during this time of war.
Sleeping Through War features three wonderful characters, three moving storylines, it wasn’t overwritten but it achieved so much. These women may live in different countries, but they are all connected, and affected, by war. I like how this novel seamlessly pulled me in and had me emotionally involved. This is a must-read novel for fans of war fiction and/or women’s fiction. I’ll leave you with my favourite quote:
“Sometimes you have to give up the best of yourself so that someone else can be better than you someday.”
*My thanks to Jackie Carreira and Rachel’s Random Resources for providing me with a copy of this title and inviting me to participate in the blog blitz*
Jackie Carreira is a writer, musician, designer, co-founder of QuirkHouse Theatre Company, and award-winning playwright. She mostly grew up and went to school in Hackney, East London, but spent part of her early childhood with grandparents in Lisbon’s Old Quarter. Her colourful early life has greatly influenced this novel. Jackie now lives in leafy Suffolk with her actor husband, AJ Deane, two cats and too many books.
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