Friday, 6 September 2019

Book Birthday Blitz and Review: Sleeping Through Wars by Jackie Carreira

Sleeping Through War by Jackie Carreira
The year is 1968. The world is changing. Students are protesting, civil rights are being fought and died for, nuclear bombs are being tested, and war is raging in Vietnam. For three women, life must go on as normal. For them, as it is for most ‘ordinary’ people, just to survive is an act of courage.
Rose must keep her dignity and compassion as a St Lucian nurse in London. Amalia must keep hoping that her son can escape their seedy life in Lisbon. And Mrs Johnson in Washington DC must keep writing to her son in Vietnam. She has no-one else to talk to. Three different women in three different countries. They work, they bring up children, they struggle to make ends meet while the world goes around and the papers print the news. History is written by the winners – and almost all of it has been written by men. The stories of women like these go unremarked and unwritten so often that we forget how important they are.

Sleeping Through War isn't at all what I expected, and I don't mean it in a negative way. It's unlike anything I've read before and I heartily enjoyed it. The narrative follows the lives of three women concurrently during a volatile period in world history.

Fascinating. I appreciated the detail the author poured into the narrative, focusing on the everyday lives of these women from differing backgrounds. In the beginning, I did wonder if their lives would connect at some point. However, as we begin to get to know them, it becomes clear their stories are unique and specific to them.

The time-line is short; merely three weeks during May 1968. It not only highlights the newsworthy events around the world during this time in history but what happens to three ordinary women and those close to them. The narrative highlights how within a short space of time, everything can change and not always for the better. As the stories about Amalia in Lisbon, Portugal, Mrs Johnson in Washington DC, US and Rose, newly arrived in London from St Lucia unfold, these women going about their everyday lives. They struggle just as much as those affected by the wars and demonstrations at this time, only their tragedies and difficulties never get heard.

As a reader, I loved the concept of Sleeping Through War. Although there isn't a physical link between these women they share a common link; all are trying their best to do what is right. One is writing to a son who is fighting in the Vietnam war. Another is trying her best to keep food on the table to care for her son after his father, her husband died fighting in the Angola War. Lastly, a lady newly arrived from the Caribbean who forms a friendship with a young single mother. Ms Carreira conveys their stories with compassionate insight.

Well researched, the writing is sublime as the narrative invites the reader to pause and think not only about these world events which occurred before many of us were born but to ponder and reflect upon everyday scenarios as relevant today as they were fifty years ago.

***arc generously received courtesy of the publisher Matador***

Jackie Carreira is an award-winning novelist, playwright, musician, designer, and co-founder of QuirkHouse Theatre Company. A true renaissance woman, or a Jack of All Trades? The jury’s still out on that one. She grew up in Hackney, East London, but spent part of her early childhood in Lisbon’s Old Quarter. Sleeping Through War was inspired, in part, by some of the women she met when she was young. One of her favourite places to write is the coffee shops of railway stations. Her second novel, The Seventh Train (published by Matador in 2019) was born in the cafĂ© at Paddington Station. Jackie now lives in Suffolk with an actor, two cats and not enough book shelves.