Ms. Brock’s book is the life story of Priscilla Messinger, a member of what is now known as “The Greatest Generation”. Married in 1940 to Dean Messinger, Priscilla lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and the economic recovery afterwards. Her life is an illustration of the American Dream: family, sacrifice, dedication, and finally success.
Theme of the Book
This is a true story of one member of a generation that, through dedication, hard work, patriotism, and love lived through one of the most turbulent eras in American history.
What I Liked About the Story
Victory on the Home Front paints an honest picture of life in the US in the 1930s and 1940s. The book is the result of both research and interviews with Priscilla Messinger, the protagonist. From the hard and dangerous work in the lumber camps of the Pacific Northwest through the struggles during World War II and on to peace time, Ms. Brock gives readers a true story of the time.
There are many revealing scenes in the book. There is the tension women felt as the “speeder”, the train that carried men to and from the forest for work, arrived off-schedule, meaning that an accident had happened. The reader feels the same fear as the women, wondering which of the men has been injured or killed. There are the touching scenes of separation as men leave for war, leaving their wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters behind. There is also the fear that rises when a telegram is about to be delivered. Those at home know that the telegram most often announces bad news. Scenes such as these are common in films, but personalizing them brings them to life.
One of the most important themes in the book is the change in women from before to after the war. Women who had been dependent on their husbands and fathers, became self-reliant and experienced “discoveries of untapped skills and unrecognized power”. The birth of both Rosie the Riveter and Wonder Woman during these years show how much potential, previously unused, came to the fore. There must have been many challenges to families when husbands came home. It’s too bad the author didn’t mention these at all.
What I Didn’t Like About the Story
While the first half of the book is both dramatic and emotional, the second half seems to be merely a list of places Priscilla Messinger lived while her husband, Dean, was working in Southeast Asia. Descriptions of Priscilla’s life in Asia make her sound like the typical ex-pat wife, shopping, going to the races, playing cards, and socializing. There is nothing particularly interesting in this.
Having read about Priscilla’s life, I do not feel that I know her at all. I know that she was hard-working, smart, and loving, but is this the picture of a real person or an ideal? Did Priscilla have no faults? As a work of history, the book has a lot to say about everyday life, but as a portrait of an individual, it is lacking. I would have liked to know more about both Priscilla and Dean as people.
Finally, there is a need for an editor. There are numerous vocabulary, tense, and grammar mistakes that an editor or proofreader could have eliminated.
For a glimpse of life for members of that generation who lived through the Depression and World War II, Victory on the Home Front is, at least in the first half, well researched and well thought out. As there are fewer and fewer members of this generation left to tell their stories, it is important for us to know and to remember their lives. Ms. Brock should have stopped at the end of the war as the rest of the book is much less informative and much less interesting.