Authors of "GI Brides” tell the stories of the Englishwomen who came to America after the war

  • Article by: LAURIE HERTZEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 2, 2014 - 11:41 PM

New book tells the true stories of four English women who moved to America after WWII with their GI husbands.

"GI Brides: The Wartime Girls Who Crossed the Atlantic For Love," by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi

So what happened next?

During World War II, tens of thousands of young English women fell in love with American G.I.s. These intrepid women had survived the Blitz, bicycled through rubbled streets to jobs as welders and secretaries, endured rationing and food shortages, hidden in the Underground during bombing raids.

And now that the war was over, they were getting married and leaving everything behind — friends, family, home and homeland — for the glitter of America.

What did they find there?

In their new book, “GI Brides: The Wartime Girls Who Crossed the Atlantic for Love,” Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi tell the stories of four of these women.

Barrett and Calvi — and two of their subjects, Rae Zurovcik and Lyn Patrino — will speak on Saturday at the Merriam Park Library in St. Paul. Calvi’s grandmother, Margaret Boyle, was a war bride, and it was her story that prompted this book.

 

Q: Your book has been an international bestseller; what do you think is behind its strong reader interest?

Barrett: I think that everyone can relate to the power of young love, and the sacrifices we make for it.

In Britain, there is a lot of nostalgia for the “friendly invasion” of GIs during World War II, and people who were children during the war still recall the American soldiers who would stop in the street to give them chocolate and chewing gum.

I think for those that remember the women who disappeared into the arms of the Americans, there’s a fascination in knowing what happened to them next.

 

Q: How did you find the 60 women that you interviewed? How did you decide on the four that you profiled?

Calvi: When we started the book, we already knew we were going to tell my grandmother’s story, and we needed to find others that were equally dramatic and meaningful.

We spent three months in 2012 traveling around the U.S. in a little Fiat 500, interviewing war brides wherever we could find them — we covered 13,000 miles and visited 38 states.

We finally narrowed it down to the three other key stories in the book: Lyn, Sylvia and Rae. All of them faced great challenges adapting to life in America, but in their different ways they all found the strength to pull through.

 

Q: I was struck by the combination of strength and naiveté in these women — strength that allowed them to survive the war and navigate these incredibly difficult marriages, but a naiveté that might have helped land them in those marriages in the first place. Were there other commonalities that you noticed among these women?

  • related content

  • Ben and Gwendolyn “Lyn” Patrino married postwar.

  • Rae Brewer in the British Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II.

  • Duncan Barrett

  • Raymond and Rae Zurovcik, “Big Ray and Little Rae,” during the war.

  • GI bride Margaret Boyle Denby flanked by her sisters, Susannah and Bridget, in 1940.

  • “When she died I made a promise to her that I would write her story one day, and the rest of the family was supportive of me keeping that promise.”Nuala Calvi, speaking of her grandmother

  • GI BRIDES

    What: Authors Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi, along with war brides Rae Zurovcik and Lyn Patrino.

    Where: Merriam Park Library, 1831 Marshall Av., St. Paul.

    When: 2 p.m. Sat.

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