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What happens to the women left over after The Great War?

Spare Brides - Adele Parks

This is a fascinating era, still reeling from the impact of the first world war, where so many young men were lost or maimed. The four main characters are all well-to-do ladies who are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives and live with the devastation of The Great War.


Sarah and Beatrice (Bea) are sisters whose brother has lost an arm and both legs and now hides away suffering with depression. Sarah's husband was killed in the war and Bea, who lacks both riches and looks, is desperately searching for a man, almost any man, to become her husband, so she can fulfill the destiny she has been raised to expect. Their friend Lydia, on the other hand, has everything, vast riches and a husband who served 'from a desk', and so remains uninjured. Finally there is Ava, a fascinating character, a bit of a wild child, daughter of newly rich parents and not interested in marriage at all.


The four attend soirees and parties, with varying levels of enthusiasm. Ava attracts men like flies but her favourites are the married men, who only want one thing and then pass on. Bea, on the other hand, is more of a wallflower and struggles in a society that has lost so many of its finest young men. Sarah is more of a mediator, she's not looking for anyone to replace her lost Arthur, father of her children. But it is Lydia whose story dominates the book, when she behaves completely out of character and causes chaos within her circle.


I felt that this book offered much, but in the end, failed to deliver. There were many lost opportunities; the issue of Marie Stopes offering contraceptives to poor families to help reduce unwanted pregnancies, the suggestion that giving free boots to employees children would increase loyalty amongst staff, the effects of inheritance tax etc. All were mentioned but then glossed over in favour of a rather Mills and Boon love affair.

The unanimous opinion of my book group was that this was a rather fluffy book, an easy read, but failing to explore the issues that it presented. it was quite an eye-opener that women could still be quite so vacuous after all the losses.