Sunday, March 10, 2013

Review: Dream When You're Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg

Title: Dream When You're Feeling Blue
Author: Elizabeth Berg
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Published: 2008
Pages: 287

Rating - 4 out of 10

Dream When You're Feeling Blue, set during World War II, is at its core, a story of family. The three Heaney sisters spend their days going to dances, helping the war effort, and writing to their soldier boyfriends, fiancees, and crushes. Kitty overcomes her vanity and decides to help as a mechanic on airplanes, all the while confused about her boyfriend Julian, who is overseas. Louise is happily engaged to her fiancee Michael, but must deal with some very hard things in his absence. The youngest, Tish, is forever flirting with new men in uniform and writes to dozens of boys, even though the only one who she really wants is already taken.

This book was average - the Heaney sisters were likable, but I never really felt that I had fully gotten to know them.

I constantly found myself comparing this book to "Little Women," and it was certainly that atmosphere that Berg was trying to write here. There were many similarities, but the lack of depth to the family relationships, as well as a lack of events, made the story fall a bit flat.

Not very much happened in this story - there were dances that the girls went to, and they surely wrote a lot of letters (which never really did anything for the plot), and love interests go through different stages, new crushes emerge, and various other forms of young love.
There were quite a lot of scenes where members of the family were just talking, or even squabbling. Realistic home life, to be sure, but the warmth and coziness that the author seemed to be trying so hard to exude just didn't ever get through to me. It was as if she were trying to make minor characters more noticeable by always having them say sweet, cute, or meaningful things.
For some reason, it just didn't work for me.

Perhaps with strong characters, this book could have been amazing. However, without them, there isn't much to it. This is World War II - surely she could have thought of something that could happen! And yet, if someone asked what the book was about, I'd have to say "Well... There are these girls. And, well, um, that's about it."

I am giving it 3 stars because, even though I wouldn't recommend it, it wasn't that bad. Most of the time, it was enjoyable light reading. Kitty was an insightful, funny character, and I loved all of the 1940's dialogue and slang that the author threw in.

The last few chapters of the book were the strongest, though I had guessed early on that that particular character would die.

The final chapter, which takes us beyond World War II and into present times, shows an eighty year old Kitty, and what happened to her. I wish that I hadn't read it, because I was very disappointed. Was the author trying to write a sad ending or a happy one? I really couldn't tell.

This is a sweet story, but if you're looking for a sister story, I'd advise you to just stick with the classic "Little Women." And as for finding other, better World War II books - well, there's no shortage of those!