A Bridge Across the Ocean
By Susan Meissner
Author Website: Susanlmeissner.com
February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Resistance spy.
Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark…
Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings. (Goodreads)
I am never one to shy away from a good ghost story or paranormal elements in a book, and I adore historical fiction, so I was fully prepared to love A Bridge Across the Ocean. I felt truly invested in the historical parts, but the present day bits left me wanting more.
The book tells the tale of three women in alternating perspectives. Simone has lost her brother and father in Nazi occupied France, and since they were part of the Resistance she must go into hiding. Here she falls in love with a downed US Airman. Annaliese is German and forced by her parents to marry an abusive Nazi officer. Both of these World War II women are strong and interesting with heartbreaking back stories that are compelling. Brette’s story plays out in present day San Diego where she can see ghosts but is afraid to embrace her abilities, and this is holding her back in life. Bette’s “gift” is what brings all of the plot threads together.
One of my favorite aspects of the book is Meissner’s ability to make the RMS Queen Mary a character. The ship’s chronicle as a luxury liner to war ship to museum is fascinating. I do not think I knew about its part in reuniting GI brides with their husbands. This history, and its legend of being haunted, plays a crucial part in the book’s story. However, Queen Mary’s role in the resolution of the book feels contrived.
The passages that take place during and immediately following the War are truly lovely. I felt like I was hiding along with Simone in the dark wine cellar. I empathized with Annaliese’s plight and her desperate attempt to escape a horrible situation. I cannot help but wonder what choices I would make in her place. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy Brette. Unable to connect with her, I found her whiny and boring. I fully realize that she plays a necessary role in the resolution of the tale, but by the end I was bored with Brette and wish that Meissner had stuck to the historical fiction and left the paranormal for a different book.
Overall, I did like A Bridge Across the Ocean, but I did not love it. Part historical fiction, part mystery, part ghost story, and part women’s lit, it should have something for everyone. I think it tries too hard to fit into all of these genres.