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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Darling: Love Letters from WWII by Peggy O’Toole Lamb is an unusual hybrid of fact-based fiction and first-person letters from the front during World War II. The soul of the story revolves around the letters sent from First Lieutenant Frank J Foster, a member of General George Patton’s Third Army that stormed across Europe after the Allied landings on D-Day to drive the Germans back to the Fatherland and ultimately defeat them. Frank was newly married to the beautiful young Catherine who had just delivered their first son, John, when Frank began his long journey from their Coachella desert home across the U.S., thence to Britain and finally to the continent, where the battle for Europe would be played out. Frank had but one day to share with his newly-born son before shipping out. Determined to keep his pledge of writing to Catherine every single day, although he sometimes struggled through circumstances, his many sweet and lonely letters to his beloved wife are faithfully recorded in the narrative, along with the actual daily activities of Frank, his fellow officers, his platoon, and the notable personages of the time, especially Patton. Frank’s experience, by no means unique and at times grueling and horrific, gives us an insight into the daily mind of a soldier at the front in the battle for Europe, through the individual battles and Frank’s very personal letters to his beloved Catherine.
Darling: Love Letters from WWII is by its nature an unusual hybrid combining a writer’s skill and imagination with the actual words of Frank J Foster as he slogs through the coldest and wettest winter in modern European memory – that of 1944/45. Author Peggy O’Toole Lamb was clearly invested in being as accurate as possible with the details of Frank’s journey through and adventure in Europe that accompany the letters. Her research was obviously exhaustive and it shows in the narrative. What stood out the most, for me, was the juxtaposition between the gentleness and love inherent in each letter and the daily battle for survival faced by Frank and his comrades. Despite his anger and frustration about the decisions sometimes made by the army, Frank understood he was there to do a job to the best of his ability. It was interesting to note the considerable benefits accorded the officers, which although understandable must no doubt have rankled with some of the soldiers on the ground. I was pleased that the author also presented the situation of Catherine at home, hopefully waiting for letters from Frank and wondering what the future might hold for them, especially when several days might pass without receiving a letter. What I think is special about Frank’s story is that in many ways it was the story of so many of the brave soldiers of that generation that went, without question, to rid the world of the scourge of Nazism in Europe and Japanese aggression in the Pacific. I loved this book and can highly recommend it.