Review: The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey

by Heather Caliendo

Editorial Note – I was given a copy of The Beantown Girls in return for a review.

The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey is everything I want in historical fiction and more. This instantly became one of my favorite reads in this genre!

As a history buff, there’s so much to adore about historical fiction. There’s the aspect of learning something new about a historical event and the writing is typically top-notch. But perhaps my favorite thing about this genre is when it focuses on history from a female perspective.

The Beantown Girls is inspired by the real-life Red Cross Clubmobile girls of WWII—something I knew nothing about going into this read. The year is 1944 and Fiona Denning has her entire future planned out. She’ll work in city hall, marry her fiancé when he returns from the war and settle down in the Boston suburbs. But when her fiancé is reported missing after being shot down in Germany, Fiona’s long-held plans are shattered.

Determined to learn her fiancé’s fate, Fiona leaves Boston to volunteer overseas as a Red Cross Clubmobile girl, recruiting her two best friends to come along. There’s the outspoken Viviana, who is more than happy to quit her secretarial job for a taste of adventure. Then there’s Dottie, a shy music teacher whose melodious talents are sure to bring heart and hope to the boys on the front lines. As the three friends begin to understand the real reasons they all came to the front, their courage and camaraderie will see them through some of the best and worst times of their lives.

New perspective

Just like with The Wartime Sisters, I really enjoy these stories set in WWII that focus on the lives of American women during the war. It was so interesting to learn about the Red Cross Clubmobile girls. They leave the comfort of home and family to travel to Europe to work near the front lines of the war. The American girls chosen for this role would go to a different base each day to make donuts and coffee, plus distribute cigarettes and gum, while also playing music from back home. The idea was to help boost morale for these soldiers who had experienced the absolute worst of humanity. But these women themselves also experienced brutal working conditions and witness the horrors of war. You’ll definitely learn more about this group in the novel—I was fascinated!

Friendship, bravery and some romance, too

It was so refreshing to read about the incredible bond of the trio of women. My favorite kind of stories are when women lift each other up. I so related to this ‘trio,’ it reminded of my own ‘trio’ and it just felt so true to life. Each of the women are different but they complement each other. There’s no cattiness or competition but just support and love.

Another area that is a focus is that these women aren’t damsels in distress and while they’re sent over to make donuts, the role is much more than that. They have to face daunting and scary challenges posed by war and have to find their inner courage. I also enjoyed that they are independent women and have aspirations outside of domestic life.

The trio grows quite a bit from beginning of the book until the end—and even experiences some romances, too.

If you love historical fiction, you have to read this one!

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