First published March 14, 2017
3 out of 5 stars
I received a free advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Short Of It:
I had such high hopes for this WWII novel, but it was a bit of a disappointment.
The Long Of It:
I was all set to love "A Bridge Across the Ocean," what I expected to be a typical WWII/present day historical fiction dual narrative. But I was quickly thrown for a loop when it was revealed that the modern day protagonist communicates with ghosts, and that's how the stories are linked (something conspicuously absent from the book blurb). Usually in books like this the past/present connection is accomplished with something like a letter, or a found diary, or a mysterious old manor, and perhaps I should've been excited that Meissner did something fresh but it just did not work for me (and I did try to keep an open mind at first!).
Brette, our ghost liaison, rubbed me wrong from the start; she's experiencing something of a midlife crisis with regard to her "ability" and I found her to be whiny and hard to empathize with. (Also, see how I said "midlife"? I think Brette is only in her 30s, but she's written like she's twice that age.) The whole thing, especially the ghost-centric ending, just felt incredibly hokey to me and I absolutely could not suspend my disbelief when it came to Brette's encounters with "Drifters." I'd get into the two historical narratives and then turn the page and be flung back to Brette and modern day San Diego and ghosts, and it'd just completely take me out of the story. I'm a fan of the paranormal in the right books, but not here. (Also, how the hell are you supposed to pronounce Brette?)
Additionally, I was far from impressed with Meissner's writing, which was quite basic and plain. Where was the interesting word choice, beautiful analogies and linguistic creativity? Not here! I was also missing that vivid sense of atmosphere and setting that good authors can achieve, and there were plenty of missed opportunities for it.
Now for the positives: I actually did enjoy the stories of Simone and Annaliese, two strong women -- each with secrets to hide -- who meet on the RMS Queen Mary, a ship filled with war brides traveling from England to the U.S. to be reunited with their new husbands. Simone and Annaliese's backstories of hardship and courage during the war were intriguing and, despite the terrible things they'd been forced to do to survive, they were easy to root for.
If you can get past the ghost aspect and the lackluster writing and you're a WWII historical fiction fan, this might be a novel for you to check out. But if you don't get around to it (and perhaps select a better WWII novel instead, like "All the Light We Cannot See" or "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" or Jojo Moyes' "The Ship of Brides" which also deals with war brides; I haven't read it yet but I know it will be better than this one because Moyes is a way better writer) I don't think you'll be missing out on too terribly much.