________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 5 . . . . October 26, 2007


Canada’s War Grooms and the Girls Who Stole Their Hearts.

Judy Kozar.
Renfrew, ON: General Store, 2007.
196 pp., pbk., $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-897113-69-1.

Subject Headings:
War grooms-Canada-Biography.
Soldiers-Commonwealth countries-Biography.
World War, 1939-1945-Canada.
World War, 1939-1945-Personal Narratives.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by J. Lynn Fraser.

*** /4

There are a great many lessons that can be learned from Kozar’s entertaining, and sometimes poignant, look at the lives of war grooms and their brides.

     First of all, the reader learns about Canada and the UK during and immediately after World War II. It was a time of hard work, deprivation, and making do. In our current materialistic culture, younger readers can learn about lives lived without a reliance on technology and material possessions. The younger reader can also learn about the risks and sacrifices made by individuals the same age, or not much older than themselves, during war and after the war. There are many stories told by the war grooms (or by family members on their behalf) of their experiences that show ingenuity during life-threatening situations. The stories also reveal human foibles that are both entertaining and delightful. As the tales are related by war grooms themselves, rather than by an author, the reader has the sense of experiencing the situations directly, an approach which reinforces the immediacy of the stories.

     The book has themes of cultural differences, youthful nerve and naiveté, displacement, loneliness and friendship, making a new life in a foreign country, and how appreciated Canada was by those who chose to make it their home.

     Kozar’s book also illustrates that the age old cliché about love conquering (almost) all things is true although differences in values, religion, and the strain of the war did break some of the marriages described in the book. It is interesting for a modern reader learn how little some of the couples knew of each other before they decided to marry and who would have, more often than not, long-lasting marriages despite this. An interesting point of discussion for the classroom today would be why these marriages lasted and why today’s marriages fail half of the time. 

     The strength of Kozar’s book resides in her ability to convey the extraordinary things accomplished by ordinary people during the war. The book’s weakness is that the stories mainly focus on war grooms who came from the UK and were stationed in the Canadian prairies. There were war grooms from other countries, such as Norway, and who were stationed in other parts of Canada who would also have stories to tell. Perhaps that could be the subject of a sequel to this book.

     Kozar has done a service to Canada’s World War II history by collecting these stories. They are real, relevant, and a lesson in what wonderful things people, in the most trying of circumstances, can accomplish.

Highly Recommended.

J. Lynn Fraser, a freelance writer whose articles appear in national and international magazines and newspapers, has also written two nonfiction books for children.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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