Next to Love, By Ellen Feldman


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The Independent Culture

Ellen Feldman's Scottsboro was a compelling recreation of the true story of the "Scottsboro boys" - a group of black men wrongly accused of rape in Alabama in 1931. It was a novel that explored how racial hatred was ineluctably entwined with questions of class.

Next to Love, also inspired by a true story, is no less concerned with social change. The novel follows three New England women - Babe, Grace and Millie - who in 1941 see their beaux off to fight.

Only Babe's husband returns, and Millie and Grace are left to tackle widowhood in a new postwar world. Feldman's tenderly told story touches on sexism, domestic violence and anti-Semitism.

At times the characters feel shoe-horned into cultural stances, but the depiction of their friendship rings true.