Book Review for “Until We Meet” by Camille Di Maio.
Summary: “Margaret Beck is proud of her work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard sewing stars onto the Stars and Stripes, but she yearns to contribute to the war effort more meaningfully. She’s angling for a promotion to the mechanic section, but she doesn’t want to wait to make a difference. So with her two best friends, she decides to start a knitting club, where they will knit socks for the boys at the front. Thinking of the young men so far from the comforts of home, Margaret slips a note into her first pair of socks, offering a connection to an unknown soldier that will forever change her life. For Thomas Powell serving his country was not only his duty but an honor, and he wore his Army uniform with pride. Yet being on the frontlines, witness to unspeakable tragedy and despair, has shaken him. The one shining light is Margaret’s letters—written to his best friend William. When William is killed, Tom doesn’t have the heart to write the warm, generous, and hopeful Margaret and tell her the news. Not about William’s death and not about the way he’s fallen in love with her—across an ocean, amidst the darkness of war, and through the letters she never intended for him.”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Women, Fiction; Settings: Historical; USA – Brooklyn, NY; England; Other Categories: Novel, WWII, Romance, LGBTQIA+.
I know, even when it comes to home front stories, the market is glutted with WWII novels, but I’m a bit of a sucker for them, to be honest. Even so, sometimes we can get too much of a good thing. However, when you’ve already read and enjoyed two books by an author, you’re willing to overlook certain things because you’re already pretty sure that you will enjoy the new one. This is exactly why I agreed to belatedly read the ARC of this novel, when Di Maio’s publisher offered it to me. Now, I almost declined that generous offer because I had two books on my TBR list that are coming out on April 12th and the 14th, as well as another two coming out on the 26th. However, I ended up tossing the one for the 12th, and I sped through the one on the 14th, so I figured I had a window for this one.
Well, needless to say, I’m glad I found that window, because although this novel is slightly more romantic than I usually like, there is a whole lot to like in this novel. But, before I get to the good things, I do have to mention that there were a few anachronisms here that didn’t sit totally right with me. Yes, I know… fiction… but even so. One of them was cherry tomatoes. I happen to know that the first cherry tomatoes which were able to be mass shipped, only happened in the 1960s, and they only became American table staples in the 1970s. Also, the word ‘tsunami’ didn’t replace ‘tidal wave’ in vernacular English until the 1960s. Still, no biggies, as they say. The bigger problem I had was that Tom and John had no problem with William being homosexual, when he came out to them. Now, I’ll put this down to Di Maio’s wishful thinking, as well as wanting these two fellow soldiers to be exceptionally progressive, despite the reality of the times. That need to make the main male characters unusually open-minded also spilled over to the minor men in this book. Like I said, it could have been worse!
So, with that out of the way, you have to admire Di Maio’s creativity here in bringing new twists to the friends-to-lovers trope. First, we have (as the title of this review indicates) the idea that Tom is writing the letters in William’s name. At first, Tom does this only because William’s right hand is out of commission, but soon Tom falls for Margaret via these letters. That this doesn’t upset William makes sense because he obviously wouldn’t be interested in Margaret romantically, so this is how Di Maio was able to keep any jealousy from creeping into the trio of soldiers. That this is done through letters, is how the Cyrano parallel comes through. I also appreciated how, despite not knowing he was the writer, Di Maio has Tom drawing pictures of flowers on each of the letters. This helps Margaret feel a closeness to Tom, even when she’s still believing that it is William who is writing the letters. It almost becomes a type of romantic triangle, without any of the nastiness that those relationships can bring.
As Di Maio alludes in her author’s notes, although this book does have a good deal of romance, this novel is really more about the type of love that comes with close friendships than it is about romantic love. Be that between the three women, or be that between the three soldiers. So, although I already said that this is more romantic than my usual fare, these women aren’t chasing after men in the belief that only having a man will fulfill them as individuals. In fact, for all three of these characters, the understanding, caring, and loyalty that friendship brings to their lives seems far more important than the idyll of domestic bliss.
Now, I have to admit that although there were a couple times while reading this book that I choked up a touch, and some things that made me smile (especially regarding Gladys’ antics), I didn’t actually cry, nor did I laugh out loud. Even so, I really liked all of the characters, and enjoyed how Di Maio developed them so carefully and distinctively. I thoroughly enjoyed Di Maio’s writing style, which had such lovely poetic touches, both joyful and with sadness. There’s no question that I can warmly recommend this to lovers of WWII novels that have just a little romance included. For all this, I think that I can give this novel a very respectable four stars out of five.
Forever – Hachette Book Group released “Until We Meet” by Camille Di Maio on March 1, 2022. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Foyles, The Book Depository UK and Book Depository US (both with free worldwide delivery), Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery UK and Wordery US, Kobo US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, Booksamillion.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank Elysse Wagner of Books Forward for sending me the ARC of this novel.