The Major’s Daughter: A Novel. J. P. Francis. Penguin Group (USA). July 2014. 400 pp. ISBN#: 9780452298699.
Collie Brennan and her father, Major John Brennan, are now living in Camp Stark in New Hampshire. They’re getting ready to house German prisoners of war, a new role neither has experienced previously. Major Brennan is not in the best of health as he suffers left-over illness from being gassed in WWI. Now it’s WWII they are dealing with and this is the story of life in the prison camp. At first the anticipation is worse than the reality. Then Collie, who helps her father by translating German into English, very slowly grows fond and fonder of a German POW, Private August Wahrlich.
Her best friend, Estelle, at the same time has fallen in love with an Indian gardener in Ashtabula, Ohio. She must decide whether to yield to that growing feeling between them or marry someone safe and stable!
This is a novel about the way war heightens prejudice, the feeling that the enemy induces in those who are already apt to believe every outlandish rumor floating in small communities and in those who have radically suffered from service on the battlefields of Europe. Today it’s called post-traumatic stress syndrome. It may be further fueled by alcohol or by jealousy, but it pervades every town across America.
The hatred that is often couched in patriotic beliefs and words is also present in the German POW camp. There are die-hard Nazis who punish those who aren’t of like mind and those who are weaker. It’s a parallel universe, a microcosm of the larger world’s classification and persecution of Germans and anyone sympathetic or averse to them.
In the midst of so much ugliness is the beauty of poetry and the enthralling specter of beautifully grown plants and flowers, spiked by the pine forests and immense mountains surrounding the Brennan’s military camp.
No spoilers here, just a beautiful story that is just as often filled with ugliness and beauty beyond what nature and humans can produce.
For those who are open to a different way of thinking, it will leave questions that demand squarely facing all the issues inherent in WWII mentality. The readers’ points of view will affect whether one loves or hates this complex memorable work of historical and/or romantic fiction.
Collie knows who she is and what she must sacrifice by making a choice to play it safe with another love-sick wooer or risk it all for the love of her life. The Major’s Daughter has crafted a powerful, memorable work of historical fiction, one that parallels the world in which our young men and women are being held prisoner and returning from unspeakable horrors that our contemporary global conflicts generate. J. P. Francis has told a simple yet endearing story that will linger in the memory for a long time after the end of reading this particularly moving story!