In Love and War: Kiwi Soldiers’ Romantic Encounters in Wartime Italy¬†is a comprehensive and well-researched volume by Susan Jacobs, which covers the romantic life of New Zealand soldiers posted in Italy during World War 2. The scene is set during the first third of the book, where the author describes the general situation, where and when the soldiers were posted, why they came into contact with so many beautiful Italian signorine, and why they were particularly likely to fall into romantic relationships in a period of wartime (apparently there is a strong relationship between war and romantic desire!). The second, and longer, part of the book tells the personal stories of a number of Kiwi soldiers and their Italian girlfriends, most of whom ended up in New Zealand as wives.
There was a lot that I didn’t know in this book, and it was interesting to read about a different side of war. The author is obviously familiar with New Zealand/Italian relations; she has written a previous book on NZ prisoners of war in Italy and has taught both English in Italy and Italian in New Zealand. She has certainly done the homework for this book. The personal relationship stories are also fun to read.
Things that made me go hmmmm
Being so full of detail, the book is hard going at times; some of the first part would be better suited for a reference text or for someone who has a professional interest in the subject than for a casual reader.
In the second part, most of the stories are very similar. I would have been interested to read some stories where the outcome was not marriage and moving to New Zealand together, or perhaps some war brides who didn’t last in New Zealand and left to go back home to Italy.
Overall, this book is a good and informative read for anyone interested in Italy, World War 2, intercultural relationships, or just in reading other people’s “so how did you two meet?” stories!