All Good Women: A Novel
Open Road Media
Four young women meet in secretarial school in the late 1930's in San Francisco. Moira is an aspiring actress from Los Angeles who has decided to take another path. Teddy was a migrant with her large family from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl earlier that decade. Wanda is a first generation Japanese-American who stands out both because of her ethnicity and her dashing sense of style. Ann is a San Francisco native, a young Jewish woman with growing concerns about the events in Europe. As they sit down to their typewriters for the first time, these girls are brought together in friendships and relationships that will last over the next decade.
All Good Women is the story of these years, as they navigate the trials of World War II and its aftermath and their personal lives as young women. The norms of the time are being upended by the war, and that's mostly good news for these iconoclastic young women, who sort of have to make up new rules as they go along.
Wanda's family is interned in a U.S. Japanese-American internment camp right at the time when she would be making major choices about her future, and instead of pursuing a career or college, she is behind barbed wire for three years, with family obligations and the fear of never getting out weighing heavily on her. The rest of the girls deal with all the usual problems we hear about with war- rationing, family members missing and lost, supporting family members who stayed home. In addition, they work through new roles for women - working in war factories, considering adoption of war orphans and single motherhood, and exploring their own sexuality in new ways with the men away.
This was released a couple of weeks ago by Open Road Media, an agency that releases ebooks, but I was surprised to find out that it was actually first published in 1987. The ideas and voice of the novel is quite contemporary, even though it's set in a historical setting. It deals with things like homosexuality and ethnic differences in a very straightforward way and without the hangups of previous generations.
I really enjoyed All Good Women, and I took a long time to read it because I liked the characters and each chapter gave me something new to think about. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes reading great characters and learning a bit about women's history without getting too academic. This is a great example of why I love historical fiction - rather than reading a dry history book, we can live the lives that these women lived along with them, feel the joys and frustrations of this time period, and understand what it would have been like to be one of these four young women in the 1940's.