Book Review: Sleeping Through War by Jackie Carreira #Literary #Fiction #Historical #Womens

Goodreads Synopsis:

The year is 1968 and the world is changing forever. During the month of May, students are rioting and workers are striking across the globe, civil rights are being fought and died for, nuclear bombs are being tested, there are major conflicts on every continent, and war is raging in Vietnam. Against this volatile background, three women strive to keep everything together.

Rose must keep her dignity and compassion as a West Indian nurse in East 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, three different countries, but all striving to survive – a courageous attitude that everybody can relate to.

Although Sleeping Through War is a work of fiction, this somewhat hidden history attempts to humanise a few weeks in time that were so stuffed with monumental events that it’s easy to forget the people involved. The author was a child in 1968 and lived in London and Lisbon during the 1960s. She met women like these and didn’t want their voices to go unheard into the future. Readers of both history and literary fiction will enjoy this emotionally-vivid work that weaves fiction into fact. 

My review:

I’ve never read anything from Jackie Carreira before so I was thrilled to receive a gifted paperback copy of Sleeping Through War from the author. This in no way influences my review. All opinions are my own.

Did it meet my expectations? More than. I loved these intimate stories set in 1968 told from the perspective of three very different women: Amalia, a widow living with her much loved young son in Lisbon (after her husband dies in the war between Portugal and Angola.) Amalia is struggling financially, she takes desperate measures and tries her utmost to keep her son away from taunts and unkindness. Rose, a West Indian Care Home nurse in London is struck by the dreariness of London compared to the vibrancy and colour of her homeland: St. Lucia. Rose experiences discrimination but her nature is to shrug it off and be forgiving and kind. She helps a young mother through difficult times. Mrs Johnson writes poignant letters to her son who is fighting in Vietnam. The three women are admirable characters. All live in different countries and yet their story-lines all share a common thread of courage, and fortitude, coping with their experiences as best they can. All three are caring individuals – Rose cares for the elderly in the care home, a young woman with a new baby, and an inebriated person she finds in the street. Amalia will do anything to keep her son away from harm and Mrs Johnson’s much loved son, (who is serving in Vietnam,) is the focal point of her letters. I don’t want to say too much about these other than to say that they are heart-wrenching.

These poignant stories sit alongside factual short news reports of the turbulent civil, and political unrest of this time period.

My recommendation: Read this novel, it will draw you into the lives of these three women in a way that will make you think of them often. 5 stars.

Looking forward to reading more from this author, a real find. I have The Seventh Train on my list too.

Author Bio:

Jackie Carreira is a writer, designer, musician and co-founder of QuirkHouse Theatre Company. British-born of Portuguese parents, she grew up in East London and lived for a while in Lisbon as a child. After travelling the world playing music for 12 years, she hung up her bass guitar and picked up a pen. She’s been writing ever since and twice been a winner of the Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama. Some of her plays are available online via If Jackie could have another life, she would be a full-time philosopher and get paid to ask questions all day.

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