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Mary Jo Leddy

Toronto, Lester & Open Dennys, 1989. 184pp, cloth, $22.95
ISBN 0-88619-254-4. CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up
Reviewed by Maryleah Otto.

Volume 18 Number 2
1990 March

Memories of War is a love story, not the sort that is glamorized in exotic and romantic fiction, but the true story of a young Canadian couple whose first years together spanned most of the six years of the hell we call World War II.

Jack Leddy and Rita Wilkinson met in 1940 at St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, where Jack was a newly appointed resident surgeon and Rita was a graduate student in nursing. In July 1941 Jack enlisted in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps. A month later he and Rita were married and almost immediately moved to Halifax, where Jack was posted to a military hospital and Rita began her days as an army wife.

After a year of living "on the edge of war" Jack was sent overseas to follow the Canadian army through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. In January 1944 Rita went to England to work for the British Civil Nursing Reserve. There she managed a brief reunion with her husband before his return to the front. In May 1945 Jack was again in England and on VE day the young couple, who had been apart during almost all of their marriage, were finally together to plan their future.

The story of the Leddys is told in an intensely personal manner through excerpts from their journals and through the reflections of their daughter Mary Jo. The powerful feelings of ordinary people struggling in the web of war - loneliness, anxiety, horror, compassion, hope, despair - come strikingly alive in the diary quotations. Although we know that such stories have found expression in countless books, there is here a sense of quiet courage, of faith in a future that may not even exist, of duty realistically faced and gratefully borne. These qualities are what set this book apart from being merely historical or biographical. Memories of War is akin to a hymn of praise for the miracle of the human spirit.

Maryleah Otto, St. Thomas Public Library, St. Thomas, Ont.
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