We were all agreed that Ship of Brides was an easy read – and we had all learnt to our surprise that alongside women from Great Britain travelling to the States to join their GI husbands there had been a similar exodus from Australia to here.
The story follows the fortunes of four women from very different backgrounds thrown together sharing a small makeshift cabin on the aircraft carrier carrying 600 women in addition to its usual crew. On the surface they are Margaret, a pregnant farm girl; Avice from a wealthy society background; a brash, loud mouthed teenager Jean, and Frances, a quiet, very reserved nurse. As the book unfolds Jojo Moyes gradually reveals more about their backgrounds and characters, and we felt that each storyline was resolved appropriately (although not always happily) and the balance between the stories was well maintained.
The book puts over the uncertainty the women faced crossing the seas to a country they knew little about, and to men they had married on very short acquaintance. Moyes illustrates the tension in the wait for a passage, the wrench of leaving the familiar, and the risks they were taking – this was periodically highlighted by the receipt of a dreaded telegram “Not wanted, don’t come”.
Another interesting strand is the story of the ship’s captain. He has to cope with the tensions created by introducing a cargo of women into what he runs as a very ordered male domain, and he is clearly not happy about it. The end of the war is also bringing change for him as he faces both his own retirement and that of his beloved ship.
What came over strongly was the dichotomy between the lives of men and women at the time. It illustrated in many ways that men were able to have full lives and consequence-free extramarital dalliances, but even the intimation of an affair or indeed indecorous conduct was enough to ruin a bride’s life
The frame story seemed a little unnecessary (indeed it acted as a bit of a spoiler for the ending), and the initial chapter was a little hard going but once into the book we had all found it an enjoyable read.