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Inspired by a little-known chapter of World War II history, a young Protestant girl and her Jewish neighbour are caught up in the terrible wave of hate sweeping the globe on the eve of war in this powerful love story that’s perfect for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. If you’re reading this letter, that means I’m dead. I had obviously hoped to see Inspired by a little-known chapter of World War II history, a young Protestant girl and her Jewish neighbour are caught up in the terrible wave of hate sweeping the globe on the eve of war in this powerful love story that’s perfect for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. If you’re reading this letter, that means I’m dead. I had obviously hoped to see you again, to explain in person, but fate had other plans. 1933 At eighteen years old, Molly Ryan dreams of becoming a journalist, but instead she spends her days working any job she can to help her family through the Depression crippling her city. The one bright spot in her life is watching baseball with her best friend, Hannah Dreyfus, and sneaking glances at Hannah’s handsome older brother, Max. But as the summer unfolds, more and more of Hitler’s hateful ideas cross the sea and “Swastika Clubs” and “No Jews Allowed” signs spring up around Toronto, a city already simmering with mass unemployment, protests, and unrest. When tensions between the Irish and Jewish communities erupt in a riot one smouldering day in August, Molly and Max are caught in the middle, with devastating consequences for both their families. 1939 Six years later, the Depression has eased and Molly is a reporter at her local paper. But a new war is on the horizon, putting everyone she cares about most in peril. As letters trickle in from overseas, Molly is forced to confront what happened all those years ago, but is it too late to make things right? From the desperate streets of Toronto to the embattled shores of Hong Kong, Letters Across the Sea is a poignant novel about the enduring power of love to cross dangerous divides even in the darkest of times—from the #1 bestselling author of The Forgotten Home Child.


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Inspired by a little-known chapter of World War II history, a young Protestant girl and her Jewish neighbour are caught up in the terrible wave of hate sweeping the globe on the eve of war in this powerful love story that’s perfect for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. If you’re reading this letter, that means I’m dead. I had obviously hoped to see Inspired by a little-known chapter of World War II history, a young Protestant girl and her Jewish neighbour are caught up in the terrible wave of hate sweeping the globe on the eve of war in this powerful love story that’s perfect for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. If you’re reading this letter, that means I’m dead. I had obviously hoped to see you again, to explain in person, but fate had other plans. 1933 At eighteen years old, Molly Ryan dreams of becoming a journalist, but instead she spends her days working any job she can to help her family through the Depression crippling her city. The one bright spot in her life is watching baseball with her best friend, Hannah Dreyfus, and sneaking glances at Hannah’s handsome older brother, Max. But as the summer unfolds, more and more of Hitler’s hateful ideas cross the sea and “Swastika Clubs” and “No Jews Allowed” signs spring up around Toronto, a city already simmering with mass unemployment, protests, and unrest. When tensions between the Irish and Jewish communities erupt in a riot one smouldering day in August, Molly and Max are caught in the middle, with devastating consequences for both their families. 1939 Six years later, the Depression has eased and Molly is a reporter at her local paper. But a new war is on the horizon, putting everyone she cares about most in peril. As letters trickle in from overseas, Molly is forced to confront what happened all those years ago, but is it too late to make things right? From the desperate streets of Toronto to the embattled shores of Hong Kong, Letters Across the Sea is a poignant novel about the enduring power of love to cross dangerous divides even in the darkest of times—from the #1 bestselling author of The Forgotten Home Child.

30 review for Letters Across the Sea

  1. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Walsh

    4.5 stars. I want to express my sincere thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for this interesting and informative ARC in return for an honest review. I was delighted that my request was granted. I can honestly state that I have learned more Canadian history from Genevieve Graham's wonderfully written and impeccably researched historical novels than I ever learned in school. Our own Canadian history was ignored for textbooks favouring Ancient Greek and Roman or British history. I got the idea 4.5 stars. I want to express my sincere thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for this interesting and informative ARC in return for an honest review. I was delighted that my request was granted. I can honestly state that I have learned more Canadian history from Genevieve Graham's wonderfully written and impeccably researched historical novels than I ever learned in school. Our own Canadian history was ignored for textbooks favouring Ancient Greek and Roman or British history. I got the idea that the Canadian past was too dull and boring to be included in our curriculum. Genevieve Graham's historical novels have taught me how wrong that impression was. Her books are my favourite historical novels, usually including well-known facts and fascinating glimpses into our mostly forgotten past. Her stories also include an emotional and romantic element without any graphic sexual content. The author makes her characters very relatable, believable and memorable, and I always find their predicaments most engaging and compelling. Little known parts of our history include the Christie Pits Riot in Toronto in 1933, noted as the largest ethnic riot in Canadian history is vividly brought to life. Anti-Semitic Nazi sympathizers attacked a crowd who had been watching a ballgame. Molly, a hard-working Protestant who has reluctantly dropped out of school to help support her family during the Depression, becomes friends with Max, a young Jewish man. He is the brother of her best friend, Hannah, and a top athlete on the baseball team. Molly longs for the time she can return to school and become a journalist and write the truth about what is happening in those tumultuous times. Max intends to go to University and become a doctor. During the riots, there are injuries, including Molly's policeman father, who suffers a brain injury when hit on the head by a brick. The blame is placed on Max's father. The two families were opposed to any developing romance between Max and Molly, and now more so than ever. The time passes, and Max has finished his medical training. He enlists in WW2 as a medic. Molly's four brothers also join the military. The plight of Canadian soldiers sent to defend Hong Kong from the Japanese is a story many are not aware of today. They were sent unprepared and poorly equipped, outnumbered, and fought in a bloody, losing battle. Almost 2,000 soldiers who survived the battle were sent to a brutal Japanese Prison camp where they had to endure appalling conditions, torture, disease, starvation and death at the whim of the sadistic guards. Those who survived suffered lifelong medical and mental conditions. Some who came home had many problems adjusting to civilian life and to their families. PTDS, blindness, and loss of limbs, painful wounds and scars from burns were not uncommon. Molly is now a promising journalist and engaged to a lovely, kind man at the news office. She has not fully recovered from the heartache caused by not hearing from Max for years and believes him dead, as was one of her brothers' fate. Her other brothers have returned suffering from injuries and trauma in their service on the European and Asian fronts. She has interviewed returning soldiers at the end of the war and has written newsworthy accounts about prison camps and war experiences. Genevieve Graham presents useful maps, additional facts and statistics from her intensive research. These extra facts helped form this riveting work of historical fiction and should not be missed after the story.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    This is a World War II Historical Fiction that takes place in Canada. I feel in love with Genevieve Graham's writing when I read Forgotten Home Child, so I know I had to pick this book up. This book was slow moving in the beginning of the book, but it picked up pretty quickly. I love the characters in this book, and I really love the storyline in this book. I love how the main characters loved each other no matter how many people told them not to. I also love that this book shows us how Canada w This is a World War II Historical Fiction that takes place in Canada. I feel in love with Genevieve Graham's writing when I read Forgotten Home Child, so I know I had to pick this book up. This book was slow moving in the beginning of the book, but it picked up pretty quickly. I love the characters in this book, and I really love the storyline in this book. I love how the main characters loved each other no matter how many people told them not to. I also love that this book shows us how Canada was during WII and the Depression. There is many books that takes place in France, England, and some USA, but I have not read many Historical Fiction that takes places in Canada. I love how Graham's book is helping people learn Canadian history. I am from and live in the USA, but I love learning other Countries history as well. I also look more into historical points in Graham's book. This book also hit my heart so hard and I cried so hard during some points of this book. I have to say this book is not for the light hearted readers, and you should look into trigger warnings before putting this book up. I was kindly provided an e-copy of this book by the publisher (Simon Schuster) or author (Genevieve Graham) via NetGalley, so I can give honest review about how I feel about this book. I want to send a big Thank you to them for that. (*)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Karren Sandercock

    In 1933, Molly Ryan is eighteen, she left high school early due to the depression in Canada, she works at the local grocery store and her dreams of becoming a journalist have been put on hold. Her best friend Hannah Dreyfus lives across the street, the girls love watching their brothers play baseball and Molly has a crush on her friend’s older brother Max. Summer is almost over, stomachs are empty, and so many people are unemployed and homeless. People are angry, they want someone to blame and J In 1933, Molly Ryan is eighteen, she left high school early due to the depression in Canada, she works at the local grocery store and her dreams of becoming a journalist have been put on hold. Her best friend Hannah Dreyfus lives across the street, the girls love watching their brothers play baseball and Molly has a crush on her friend’s older brother Max. Summer is almost over, stomachs are empty, and so many people are unemployed and homeless. People are angry, they want someone to blame and Jewish residents are targeted. Signs start appearing in shop windows saying they won’t serve Jewish people and young men join the new Swastika Club. Tension builds between the Irish Protestants and the Jewish communities and on the 16th of August it explodes. Molly and Max are caught up in the violence, Molly’s father is injured and the two families no longer speak. Molly studied at night school to get her high school diploma and has just started working as a reporter for the local newspaper the Star. On the 10th of September 1939 Prime Minister Mackenzie King announces Canada is at war and by 1941 all four Ryan brothers have enlisted. Molly still lives at home with her mum and dad, her brothers Richie, Jimmy, Mark and Liam are serving in the air force, navy and army. Two thousand Canadian troops are sent to Hong Kong, Richie is one of them, and they had very little army training. The Japanese forces bomb Pearl Harbor on the 7th of December 1941, quickly they take Malaysia and Hong Kong is next. The Canadian troops didn’t stand a chance against the experienced and combat hardened Japanese soldiers. The first Canadian forces to engage in combat during WW II and they fought bravely despite the terrible odds. The survivors are captured by Japanese, made prisoners of war, kept and treated terribly for over three years. Molly’s family waits for news about Richie, when it arrives it’s bad and she assumes Max’s fate is the same? Molly is determined to make a difference, she’s sympathetic towards the returned service men, she begins writing about their wartime experiences and shares their stories with the public. Prior to reading Letters Across the Sea, I had never heard of the anti-Jewish movement in Canada, the Christie Pit Riots and about the Canadian troops fighting the Japanese in Hong Kong during WW II and becoming prisoners of war. Genevieve Graham skillfully includes all of these facts in her book, it’s an absolutely amazing story and one of the best WW II Historical Fiction books I have read. I received a copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review and five big stars from me. https://karrenreadsbooks.blogspot.com/

  4. 5 out of 5

    Annette

    This story brings the little-known chapters of Canadian history which happened right after the Great Depression as an effect of it and during WWII. Toronto, 1933. Molly, at fourteen had to drop out of school and contribute to the pot as their family and as other families have been struggling around the world due to the Crash. The Great Depression has affected everyone including children. Some, including Molly and her best friend Hannah, try to hold on to some normalcy while playing baseball. But This story brings the little-known chapters of Canadian history which happened right after the Great Depression as an effect of it and during WWII. Toronto, 1933. Molly, at fourteen had to drop out of school and contribute to the pot as their family and as other families have been struggling around the world due to the Crash. The Great Depression has affected everyone including children. Some, including Molly and her best friend Hannah, try to hold on to some normalcy while playing baseball. But anti-Semitism is on the rise. Signs against Jews keep appearing in the store windows. Molly’s brother after weeks of looking for a job suddenly finds one. But as it turns out it is possible because Jews are being fired. There is an emergence of the hateful Swastika Clubs. One night, a baseball game turns into a riot. The story alternates between Molly and Max, Hannah’s brother. Molly and Max have mutual feelings for each other. Her family is Irish Protestant and his is Jewish. And Molly’s family wants her to distance herself from her best friend and her brother. 1939. Molly works as a journalist. The Riot of 1933 “marked a change for the city. Things were still tumultuous, noisy with continuing protests and prejudice…” Molly reports mostly about the local news, but she craves something more ambitious. As she remembers a morning encounter, an idea materializes. One ambitious report turns into many and uncovering about certain events during the war. When Max enlisted with the British forces, he expected to be sent to Europe, not to Hong Kong. When Japanese attack Hong Kong, the Canadians are unprepared, lacking in proper training and weapons. They are outnumbered greatly by “Japanese forces with far superior firepower and training.” This story vividly captures the stolen years during the Great Depression and the stolen lives during the war. It captures Toronto’s simmering with hateful tensions and leading to the Christie Pits Riot, the largest ethnic riot in Canadian history. It captures unprepared men being sent for something they should have not been sent for. It also brings the Japanese inhuman treatment of POW, not respecting the Geneva Convention; and also their attack on hospital leading to St. Stephen’s Massacre. It’s a poignant story bringing heartache, but also showing us that even during the worst times you can find acts of human kindness. This touchingly woven story with moving characters also shows us the power of love, what it can endure and how far it can go. It’s interestingly written with well-developed characters which expose a reader to the little-known pockets of history. Source: ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tamar...light at the end of the tunnel?

    This is an historical fiction page-turner, spanning twelve years between 1933-1945, the Great Depression, Recession, and WWII. The story takes place primarily in Toronto and Hong Kong, with descriptions of World War II battles, prisoner of war camps in Germany, Japan, and Ontario. The beginning of the book feels a little like Romeo and Juliet. Two families, Ryan (Irish Protestant) and Dreyfus (Jewish), live across the street from each other in Toronto, at a time when antisemitism and pro-Nazi se This is an historical fiction page-turner, spanning twelve years between 1933-1945, the Great Depression, Recession, and WWII. The story takes place primarily in Toronto and Hong Kong, with descriptions of World War II battles, prisoner of war camps in Germany, Japan, and Ontario. The beginning of the book feels a little like Romeo and Juliet. Two families, Ryan (Irish Protestant) and Dreyfus (Jewish), live across the street from each other in Toronto, at a time when antisemitism and pro-Nazi sentiment was high. The Dreyfus family owns a clothing factory and although the factory is still operating and providing work in the community, many stores are no longer buying from Jews (nor hiring, nor serving). Signs in shop windows state no [dogs or] Jews allowed, and there is a local chapter of aspiring Hitler Youth who bully and beat Jews. Molly Ryan and Hannah Dreyfus are best friends, Molly’s brothers are close friends and baseball buddies of Hanna’s older brother Max. Molly and Max are the star-crossed lovers. Although the parents are “friendly” a romantic relationship between Max and Molly is out of the question. Never-the-less, the young couple are drawn together like magnets, and their budding relationship leads to tragic consequences, and forced separation after the violent events of the Christie Pits Riot. The book weaves several dramatic historical events, in particular the Christie Pits Riot and the Battle of Hong Kong, into an interesting novel of the period. The reenactment of the anti-semitic Christie Pits Riot in Toronto, following a less than sportsmanship-like baseball game, was frightening, but, the reenactment of the Battle of Hong Kong, the descriptions of the Japanese POW camps, and the Japanese massacre, murder, and rape at the St. Stephen’s hospital, was gruesome and horrifying. Despite the title, this book is not epistolary, there are a few letters and the fact of those letters (and only much later, the content) partially drive the novel. After I got over the initial disappointment (epistolary is one of my favorite genres), I settled down to a really good read. Molly grew into a talented and principled newspaper reporter, who never completely got over her true love for Max. Max finished medical school, enlisted, and was deployed in Hong Kong where he performed valiantly under fire in the Battle of Hong Kong, after which he was captured and interned in a Japanese POW camp. Both the Dreyfus and the Ryan family suffer great loss and redemption over the years until the end of the war. I recommend this book to lovers of historical romance fiction. This is not really my favorite genre, never-the-less I found this book to be a winner and I very much enjoyed the read. Thank you NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada/Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read an ARC of this book!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Literary Redhead

    “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” — Helen Keller LETTERS ACROSS THE SEA is a heartbreaking account of anti-semitism in Canada during the Great Depression and heroism by Canadian soldiers in Hong Kong during WWII. I know little of that history, and found myself fully engaged by the historical details and the romance of Molly Ryan and Max Dreyfus set against the chilling backdrop. Molly is Irish-blooded, Max is a Jew — friends from childhood while “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” — Helen Keller LETTERS ACROSS THE SEA is a heartbreaking account of anti-semitism in Canada during the Great Depression and heroism by Canadian soldiers in Hong Kong during WWII. I know little of that history, and found myself fully engaged by the historical details and the romance of Molly Ryan and Max Dreyfus set against the chilling backdrop. Molly is Irish-blooded, Max is a Jew — friends from childhood while anti-Semitism takes root in Toronto. It erupts into a bloody riot in August 1933, spreading across the city, injuring many and dividing families, friends and neighbors. The author captures the chaos with such fervor that I felt I was there, ducking fists, bricks and body blows amid flying swastika flags. The fall-out is ugly, and it takes the outbreak of WWII to refocus the country. Max is sent to the Pacific, part of the harrowing last stand of Canadian soldiers in the Battle of Hong Kong in late 1941. A lethal event, followed by incarceration of many in horrific Japanese death camps. What made my heart sing was the hope the author weaves through this dark tale, embodied by the tender relationship between Molly and Max. Genevieve Graham is new to me but wildly popular in Canada and I can see why. Her writing is lush, her narrative enticing, and her characters fully fleshed, causing me to care deeply about the couple from the start. Magnificent historical fiction brightened by thrilling romance! 5 of 5 Stars Pub Date 27 Apr 2021 #LettersAcrossTheSea Thanks to the author, Simon & Schuster Canada, and NetGalley for the ARC, in exchange for my honest review. Was this review helpful?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Genevieve Graham has done it again. Letters Across the Sea is superb Canadian historical fiction. I cannot say enough good things about this must read novel! It is interesting, focussing on two little known periods in Canadian history (Christie Pit Riots and anti-semitism in Toronto during the Great Depression and the Canadian troops role in the Battle of Hong Kong during WWII). It is well-written and engaging and pulls you into the story so effectively that I felt that I was living events along Genevieve Graham has done it again. Letters Across the Sea is superb Canadian historical fiction. I cannot say enough good things about this must read novel! It is interesting, focussing on two little known periods in Canadian history (Christie Pit Riots and anti-semitism in Toronto during the Great Depression and the Canadian troops role in the Battle of Hong Kong during WWII). It is well-written and engaging and pulls you into the story so effectively that I felt that I was living events along with the wonderfully depicted characters. I could not put the book down and read it in one day. Novels like this are why I love to read. You can always count on a Genevieve Graham novel and this one is no exception. This novel, for me, has set the bar for historical fiction for this year. It is simply fantastic. This is one you have to read! Letters Across the Sea is out on April 27. Thanks to Simon and Schuster and Netgalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shawna

    If I could give this book more than 5 stars, I absolutely would!! My father passed just over a month ago. Needless to say, it’s been a difficult time and my ability to focus has been terrible. Then I was approved by NetGalley for this novel and suddenly, I was whisked away to a time and place that called to me in so many ways! The Ryans and The Dreyfuses were two families who made their home in Toronto, Ontario Canada in the 1930’s. This was a turbulent time in history when the Jewish community wa If I could give this book more than 5 stars, I absolutely would!! My father passed just over a month ago. Needless to say, it’s been a difficult time and my ability to focus has been terrible. Then I was approved by NetGalley for this novel and suddenly, I was whisked away to a time and place that called to me in so many ways! The Ryans and The Dreyfuses were two families who made their home in Toronto, Ontario Canada in the 1930’s. This was a turbulent time in history when the Jewish community was being targeted due to their beliefs. Tensions escalated for years leading up to WWII and many friends became enemies for no other reason other than their religion. This was the case between these two families. Molly Ryan lived with her parents and four brothers, Ritchie, Jimmy, Mark, and Liam. Across the road, Molly’s best friend Hannah Dreyfus lived with her parents and brother Max. They were the best of friends and as they grew older, Molly and Max developed feelings for one another that were against what society deemed acceptable. Sadly, like so many others, the sons of these families, along with their friends, were sent overseas to fight. Some were killed in action, some were held as POW’s and some were listed as missing. Molly searched daily for information but could never find any information about what happened to Max. After a significant amount of time had passed, at Hannah’s insistence, Molly tried to move on with her life. She focussed on her writing career at The Star and began dating a co-worker who she eventually became engaged to. Everything appeared to be falling into place, until the end of the war finally came. Molly was forced to re-evaluate her decisions and where she saw herself in the future. My grandparents lived in Toronto during the time frame of this novel. I would read passages of Letters Across the Sea and then compare them to old photos I was currently sorting at my parents’ house. I was able to get a feel for what they would have been wearing and what the city actually looked like at that time. I felt connected to the characters in a way I’ve never felt before. Imagine my surprise when Ian and Molly even travelled to Bowmanville to cover the Battle of Bowmanville story! I live 5 MINUTES from Camp 30! Another scene I was able to visualize so easily as we have visited this site more times than I can count. All of this just intensified my love for this story! Genevieve Graham is hands-down my favorite author of Canadian historical fiction. Letters Across the Sea was well-researched and rich in detail. I was able to escape my life for a time and be reminded that life does indeed go on. Thank you, Ms. Graham. “𝐀𝐟𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐟𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐲𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐞 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐠𝐞𝐭𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐥𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐚𝐠𝐚𝐢𝐧.” - 𝑀𝑎𝑥, 𝐿𝑒𝑡𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝐴𝑐𝑟𝑜𝑠𝑠 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑆𝑒𝑎 ***Many thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for the opportunity to read and review this ARC***

  9. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Thanks to Netgalley and Simon&Schuster Canada for an egalley in exchange for an honest review. I try to read and discuss as many Canadian authors as possible in any year, Genevieve Graham is one of my absolute favorites and is definitely in my top 5 must-have on my bookshelf immediately. I recommend her books to everyone. Letters Across the Sea is the Canadian historical fiction that we all need to read this year. Graham's latest novel begins in the city of Toronto and the Christie Pit riots t Thanks to Netgalley and Simon&Schuster Canada for an egalley in exchange for an honest review. I try to read and discuss as many Canadian authors as possible in any year, Genevieve Graham is one of my absolute favorites and is definitely in my top 5 must-have on my bookshelf immediately. I recommend her books to everyone. Letters Across the Sea is the Canadian historical fiction that we all need to read this year. Graham's latest novel begins in the city of Toronto and the Christie Pit riots to WWII and the often forgotten Battle of Hong Kong, POW camps and the men that returned from the wars in Europe and the Pacific. It is also at its heart a love story between Irish Protestant Molly Ryan and her Jewish neighbour Max Dreyfus. As I stated, this is THE Canadian history we need to read because we certainly didn't learn about it in school. It always amazes me just how much history that GG packs into each novel and makes us feel so present in the setting. A word of caution, you will lose sleep because once you start reading you will fall in love with the characters and travel back in time. In addition, there's a detailed author's note, maps, reading guide questions and a list of further resources. Expected publication 27/04/21 Goodreads review published 10/04/21 #netgalley #simonandshuster #canadianliterature #erinrossreads2021 #goodreads #readersofinstagram #teachersandbooks

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laurie • The Baking Bookworm

    4.5 STARS - Genevieve Graham's previous book, The Forgotten Home Child, blew me away with its story that wove lesser-known parts of Canadian history with sympathetic characters I couldn't help but root for. It was my favourite book of Graham's -- until now. I was immediately intrigued by Graham's upcoming book, Letters Across the Sea because part of it is set in a Toronto neighbourhood close to where my mom grew up. Along with a few Ontario locations many readers will recognize, Graham has writte 4.5 STARS - Genevieve Graham's previous book, The Forgotten Home Child, blew me away with its story that wove lesser-known parts of Canadian history with sympathetic characters I couldn't help but root for. It was my favourite book of Graham's -- until now. I was immediately intrigued by Graham's upcoming book, Letters Across the Sea because part of it is set in a Toronto neighbourhood close to where my mom grew up. Along with a few Ontario locations many readers will recognize, Graham has written a story that spans the effects of the Great Depression, the simmering and often blatant anti-Semitism in 1930's Toronto and a look at a group of Canadian soldiers who were sent into WWII not properly trained and vastly outnumbered by their ruthless counterparts. Through the POVs of Molly - an Irish Protestant teen and Max, her Jewish neighbour, Graham puts a face to the growing racial tensions that were rife in Toronto in the 1930's, leading to Canada's largest ethnic-based violent event in Canadian history - the Christie Pits Riot. With her detailed research, Graham also unearths a part of Canadian history that I knew nothing about - the Canadian soldiers who fought in the Battle of Hong Kong. With building tension and an unflinching look at barbaric the realities of war, Graham gives readers a sobering look at this group of Canadian soldiers. Some of these soldiers gave their lives in combat, others endured years of horrific treatment in Japanese POW camps and the remaining returned home only to learn that all their sacrifices would be ignored by their government and fellow Canadians. Letters Across the Sea is a sobering blend of history, humanity, courage, and hope. By weaving poignant story lines with historical facts, Graham educates her readers about lesser-known parts of Canadian history while bringing a human perspective to those darker times that we should never again forget. As the proud granddaughter of an Orangeman who was a soldier in the Irish Regiment of Toronto, I want to thank the author for highlighting the heroism of a group of Canadian soldiers that the textbooks, the Canadian government, and the Canadian people sadly and shamefully forgot. Genevieve, thank you for giving them a voice. Note: Once you have read this book, please do not forget to read the author's note at the end. Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Simon and Schuster Canada for my complimentary digital copy of this title, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    The story begins in 1933 with the Jewish family Dreyfus and the Irish Protestant family Ryan as neighbours in the Kensington area of downtown Toronto. The Depression is in full swing with mass unemployment and heated unrest. Molly Ryan and Hannah Dreyfus are best friends. Molly’s brothers and Hanna’s brother Max are also friends. They all play baseball with other neighbourhood boys at Christie Pitts baseball diamond – both Jewish and Gentile. Max and Molly are especially close even though both f The story begins in 1933 with the Jewish family Dreyfus and the Irish Protestant family Ryan as neighbours in the Kensington area of downtown Toronto. The Depression is in full swing with mass unemployment and heated unrest. Molly Ryan and Hannah Dreyfus are best friends. Molly’s brothers and Hanna’s brother Max are also friends. They all play baseball with other neighbourhood boys at Christie Pitts baseball diamond – both Jewish and Gentile. Max and Molly are especially close even though both families know that there can never be a match between a Jew and a Protestant. In 1939 Max, Molly’s four brothers and other young men from the neighbourhood are off to war. I was made aware for the first time how severe anti-Semitism was Toronto in 1933. I was made aware for the first time of the 1933 Christie Pitts Riot. I was made aware for the first time of the Canadians in the Battle of Hong Kong - 1941. I asked my grandson if he had been taught any of this is school. He had not. While this is ‘historical fiction’ there is enough factual history for it to be of interest to any history buff. It’s sometimes raw and gut-wrenching interspersed with a love story between a Jewish boy and a Gentile girl, but the love story does in no way overpower the plot. The back of the book has a map of Toronto at the time and a map of Hong Kong 1941 where the reader can trace the movements of the characters. This is a compelling beautifully written story about family, war, courage, betrayal, forgiveness and love.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn McBride

    I am always blown away by how real Genevieve Graham's novels are. It's obvious the author does a ton of research! Her characters could be any one of us and their struggles become our own while we read. This book is no exception. Having spent some formative years in Toronto, I recognized a few locations, but I sure didn't know the history! I learned so much while reading, and once again came away from this book with a new sense of respect for those that came before us, but also respect for the hi I am always blown away by how real Genevieve Graham's novels are. It's obvious the author does a ton of research! Her characters could be any one of us and their struggles become our own while we read. This book is no exception. Having spent some formative years in Toronto, I recognized a few locations, but I sure didn't know the history! I learned so much while reading, and once again came away from this book with a new sense of respect for those that came before us, but also respect for the history that we, as Canadians, don't hear about in school. The additional material at the back of the book added another layer entirely. I'm convinced that if the author ever gives up writing (please don't!), she could easily become a history professor. She is one of the people I would love to sit and talk to, if we could host a dinner party of notable people. She, her worlds and the people that live there, fascinate me. I was extremely lucky to have been granted an ARC of this novel, for which I thank NetGalley and the publisher, and thank the author for once again teaching me something while she turned my world upside down.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kate Baxter

    With meticulous historical detail and exquisite writing, author Genevieve Graham has brought forth an epic saga of steadfast love, compassion, endurance and heroism. From the anti-Semitic Christie Pits riot of 1933 to the Christmas Battle of Hong Kong of 1941 and VJ Day of1945, Ms. Graham evokes richly detailed events of Canadian history and has rescued them from obscurity. The story is on the one hand a tale of horrific events, yet also one of tender caring and tremendous loyalty. Her character With meticulous historical detail and exquisite writing, author Genevieve Graham has brought forth an epic saga of steadfast love, compassion, endurance and heroism. From the anti-Semitic Christie Pits riot of 1933 to the Christmas Battle of Hong Kong of 1941 and VJ Day of1945, Ms. Graham evokes richly detailed events of Canadian history and has rescued them from obscurity. The story is on the one hand a tale of horrific events, yet also one of tender caring and tremendous loyalty. Her characters are well developed, thought provoking and highly relatable. This was my first foray into the writing of Genevieve Graham and I assure you that it won't be my last. I learned a bit more history of our nice neighbors to the north in Toronto and their engagement at the little-known Battle of Hong Kong during WWII, gaining a whole new respect for them. This was a beautiful and at times heart-wrenching tale which was highly satisfying when all was said and done. Can't wait to read more by this gifted author and storyteller. Publication Date: April 27, 2021 Pages: 384 Publisher: Simon & Schuster ISBN: 9781982156640 I am grateful to author Genevieve Graham and her publisher, Simon and Schuster, for having provided a complimentary advance uncorrected reader's proof of this book through NetGalley. Their generosity, however, has not influenced this review - the words of which are mine alone.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Julia Kelly

    Letters from Across the Sea is a beautiful book that tells a little-known chapter of history with incredible humanity. From the neighborhoods of Toronto to the battlefields of Hong Kong, Genevieve Graham weaves exquisite research, nail-biting tension, and rich characters into a sweeping novel of courage, betrayal, and reconciliation. I loved it!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    Genevieve Graham has such a beautiful knack of knitting her fictional stories with real facts and events in history. Letters Across the Sea is poignant, gut wrenching, heartwarming, heartbreaking and sobering. Though the characters may be fictional, the horrors real people went through during the depression and WWII are unimaginable and portrayed so well in this book. Graham does not gloss over raw and intense descriptions which are difficult to read but at the same time, it was reality and a go Genevieve Graham has such a beautiful knack of knitting her fictional stories with real facts and events in history. Letters Across the Sea is poignant, gut wrenching, heartwarming, heartbreaking and sobering. Though the characters may be fictional, the horrors real people went through during the depression and WWII are unimaginable and portrayed so well in this book. Graham does not gloss over raw and intense descriptions which are difficult to read but at the same time, it was reality and a good reminder not to take our freedoms for granted. Molly, an 18-year-old Protestant in 1936 Toronto, is friends with Jewish Hannah and her brother, Max. However, her loyalties are tested when anti-Jew signs appear all over and riots break out as Jews are horribly ostracized and beaten. No idea how as a Canadian I had next to no insight into the Christie Pit Riots and Orangemen! This is one of the many reasons such books hold tremendous appeal...they are fascinating, informative and there is always something to learn, not just about history but also the incredible human spirit. The story takes us through the lives of these three characters plus others including family members as tensions increase dramatically, tension which are almost palpable. We also see glimpses into 1939 and then later the effects of PTSD in the aftermath. This story was a WOW to me in its entirety. Yes, the brutality is awful but we also rejoice at the loyalty, love, courage and hope. The Battle of Hong Kong details are challenging to read BUT am I ever glad to learn more! I did not realize it was the only battle in WWII which was 100% a failure. What a tragic waste. Do pay attention to the helpful notes in the back, too, AFTER finishing the story. Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction and General Fiction fans truly should prioritize this deeply moving and thoughtfully-written book. My sincere thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada and NetGalley. This is a wonderful, wonderful book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gerry

    4-1/2 stars. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a complimentary Advance Reader ebook in return for an objective review. So many novels have been written about the events of World War II that it's hard to imagine that one more could have a significant impact. But Letters Across the Sea did just that: it introduced me to an aspect of the war about which I had no prior knowledge, and did so in a way that brought both the facts and the emotions of this time vividly to life. Letter 4-1/2 stars. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a complimentary Advance Reader ebook in return for an objective review. So many novels have been written about the events of World War II that it's hard to imagine that one more could have a significant impact. But Letters Across the Sea did just that: it introduced me to an aspect of the war about which I had no prior knowledge, and did so in a way that brought both the facts and the emotions of this time vividly to life. Letters Across the Sea is based on true events that occurred in Canada prior to that nation's entry into the war, as well as on the experiences of Canadian soldiers in both European and Pacific theaters. It deals with rising anti-Semitism in Canada after the Great Depression, using a Romeo and Juliet style romance to thread together the events that occurred before, during, and after the war. For me, the early chapters of the book moved a bit slowly and predictably, but soon the story captured my full interest as the focus moved away from romance and more into the experiences of both Jewish and Gentile Canadian soldiers, and especially those who engaged in the devastating Battle of Hong Kong in December 1941. The novel is thoroughly researched and well-written, and is one I'd recommend to any reader who enjoys solid historical fiction.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Another wonderful historical fiction novel, based on Canadian history, by Genevieve Graham. The author weaves fact and fiction into this captivating story which focuses on anti-semitism in Toronto and Canada's role in the Battle of Hong Kong during WWII. The story follows Molly and Max, two young adults who have been neighbours for many years in Toronto during the Great Depression. Over the years their bond of friendship turned to love. Molly is a Protestant journalist and Max is a Jewish doctor i Another wonderful historical fiction novel, based on Canadian history, by Genevieve Graham. The author weaves fact and fiction into this captivating story which focuses on anti-semitism in Toronto and Canada's role in the Battle of Hong Kong during WWII. The story follows Molly and Max, two young adults who have been neighbours for many years in Toronto during the Great Depression. Over the years their bond of friendship turned to love. Molly is a Protestant journalist and Max is a Jewish doctor in training when he enlists and goes to war with Molly's brothers. The author's research into what the soldiers endured, as well as the their families at home, was exceptional and is finally told. This is a story of love, loss, hate, tolerance, bravery, courage, hope and humanity. Author Genevieve Graham has stated "My goal, my passion, is to breathe life back into Canadian history!" With Letters Across The Sea she did just that! A Must Read! Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for an arc of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Linda S.

    I have enjoyed all of the books I have read by Genevieve Graham so I was thrilled when I received an ARC of this novel through NetGalley. Ms. Graham has a beautiful writing style and I found this a quick and easy read- although I did find parts of it difficult to read because of the vivid descriptions of the horrors of war. Letters Across the Sea tells the story of the Christian Ryan family and the Jewish Dreyfus family living in Toronto, Canada, beginning in the early 1930's, just before WWII, I have enjoyed all of the books I have read by Genevieve Graham so I was thrilled when I received an ARC of this novel through NetGalley. Ms. Graham has a beautiful writing style and I found this a quick and easy read- although I did find parts of it difficult to read because of the vivid descriptions of the horrors of war. Letters Across the Sea tells the story of the Christian Ryan family and the Jewish Dreyfus family living in Toronto, Canada, beginning in the early 1930's, just before WWII, with the story ending after the war is over. The families are good friends but when Molly Ryan and Max Dreyfus develop feelings for each other, neither family is happy about it. To make things more difficult, pro-Nazi anti-Semitism was taking hold in Canada around that time period. I was shocked to read the details of both the anti-Semitic rioters and the barbarous treatment that the Canadian servicemen faced at the hands of the Japanese. No spoilers, but the author brilliantly weaves the history of the period into her tale of Molly and Max, both of their families, and WWII. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    As she always does, Genevieve Graham has written yet another wonderful book. This one begins during The Great Depression and continues through till the end of WWII. It touches on the horrendous way that Jews were treated during the depression era, even with the news of the atrocities taking place in Germany. I did not know how bad it was in Toronto for Jewish people. Things were so bad that there was a massive riot that saw numerous people seriously injured and tore apart friendships. I also lea As she always does, Genevieve Graham has written yet another wonderful book. This one begins during The Great Depression and continues through till the end of WWII. It touches on the horrendous way that Jews were treated during the depression era, even with the news of the atrocities taking place in Germany. I did not know how bad it was in Toronto for Jewish people. Things were so bad that there was a massive riot that saw numerous people seriously injured and tore apart friendships. I also learned a lot about the Canadian Soldiers that were taken as Prisoners of War by the Japanese army. I knew that these camps were evil but I learned so much about what happened to our soldiers. It was extremely difficult to read. The characters in this book were wonderfully created and it was easy to picture them in my mind. The main character, Molly was a strong and modern woman, getting a job when many woman of that era only wanted to get married. Max was a serious and hard working young man, putting all his time and energy into becoming a doctor. The chemistry that the author created between these two characters was special and I was cheering for them the entire book. Ms. Graham has written so many books that all deal with Canadian History and she does so in a creative way by making her characters so realistic. I have learned about many aspects of our history that aren’t talked about. You can always depend on this author to deliver an intriguing story that reads as an amazing fiction but is entirely based on facts. It takes a special writer to keep you wanting to read the book in one sitting. I thank NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Canada for the opportunity to read this amazing book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bonnye Reed

    I received a free electronic ARC of this historical novel from Netgalley, Genevieve Graham, and Simon & Schuster Canada. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me. I have read Letters Across the Sea of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work. I am happy to add Genevieve Graham to the authors I follow. She brings us an intense, personal look into life in Toronto beginning in 1933, both before and during WWII, and makes us aware of the sorrow and sacrifice e I received a free electronic ARC of this historical novel from Netgalley, Genevieve Graham, and Simon & Schuster Canada. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me. I have read Letters Across the Sea of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work. I am happy to add Genevieve Graham to the authors I follow. She brings us an intense, personal look into life in Toronto beginning in 1933, both before and during WWII, and makes us aware of the sorrow and sacrifice experienced by neighbors and friends during that telling time. I had heretofore heard nothing about the Canadian troops captured in Hong Kong. We in New Mexico had many prisoners in the Bataan Death March, so we can sympathize. I find it such a relief to know our pain and loss are acknowledged by those outside the problem. I hope this exposure will aid in easing the pain of those soldiers and their loved ones, those who paid such a high price for all of our freedom. pub date April 27, 2021 Simon and Schuster Canada Reviewed at Goodreads and Netgalley on April 16, 2021. Reviewed on April 27, 2021, at AmaxonSmile, Netgalley, BookBub, Kobo, and GooglePlay. at

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham is an excellent pre/WWII-era historical fiction novel that has it all: history, compelling and addictive narrative, wonderful cast of characters, suspense, and romance. I really loved everything about this book. This is such a wonderful and complex book. It has several layers. Yes, in one aspect there is a romance that has fundamental obstacles of family differences and difficulties and external circumstances that are unique to that era. Molly and Max ar Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham is an excellent pre/WWII-era historical fiction novel that has it all: history, compelling and addictive narrative, wonderful cast of characters, suspense, and romance. I really loved everything about this book. This is such a wonderful and complex book. It has several layers. Yes, in one aspect there is a romance that has fundamental obstacles of family differences and difficulties and external circumstances that are unique to that era. Molly and Max are delightful and perfectly matched characters. They have much set against them, yet love and true connection will triumph...one hopes. I also enjoyed the unique perspective that this book takes place in Toronto, Canada during the depression and into the winds of war of WWII. I knew nothing of the involvement of Canadian soldiers being sent to Hong Kong and the POW encampments and battles against the Japanese that the ill-prepared soldiers faced. I knew of the treatment of soldiers captured by the Japanese in general, but not in regards to this specific situation. I absolutely love when I get to learn something new while I am reading a wonderful and relaxing historical fiction novel. This is such a gem of a novel...it is what historical fiction should be. Excellent. 5/5 stars Thank you NG and Simon & Schuster Canada for this stunning arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Moore

    This is a story of love between two people who are trying to overcome the obstacles thrown in their way. One is a Jewish, the other a Protestant. Molly has grown up across from Max, best friends with her brother Richie, and is best friends with his sister, Hannah. Despite their different religions, they realize that the other has grown up and the attraction is strong. A riot at Christie Pits not only tears the lovers apart, but also results in the families turning their backs on one another due This is a story of love between two people who are trying to overcome the obstacles thrown in their way. One is a Jewish, the other a Protestant. Molly has grown up across from Max, best friends with her brother Richie, and is best friends with his sister, Hannah. Despite their different religions, they realize that the other has grown up and the attraction is strong. A riot at Christie Pits not only tears the lovers apart, but also results in the families turning their backs on one another due to a life changing event during the riots. Max tries to mend the love from afar, but realizes that Molly is not willing to listen. Meanwhile, Molly moves on with life with a co-worker at the newspaper she works at after school. Max is able to fix the rift with his best friend, Richie, but then after little preparation or training, both are faced with life and death as World War II draws them into battle. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t know much about the role of Canadians in World War II, but this book opened my eyes to the contributions of the brave soldiers and supportive families at home, waiting for their children to return to them. I also didn’t realize the treatment of Jews outside of Europe was as hostile as I read in this novel. This historical fiction gem is a must read for those that love World War II stories. This is the first novel of Genevieve Graham’s I’ve read, but it won’t be the last. #netgalley #lettersacrossthesea

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jenn (burlingtonbibliophagist)

    BOOK REVIEW Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham PUB Date April 27 2021 Thank you to @netgalley and @simonandschusterca for my ARC in return for an honest review. Where do I start... I binged this read in one sitting. At one point tears were pouring down my face and my husband asked what was wrong...how could I explain... Genevieve does it soo much better. Each time I pick up one of Genevieve’s books I am amazed by what I learn. There is soo much I do not know about my owns country’s history. S BOOK REVIEW Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham PUB Date April 27 2021 Thank you to @netgalley and @simonandschusterca for my ARC in return for an honest review. Where do I start... I binged this read in one sitting. At one point tears were pouring down my face and my husband asked what was wrong...how could I explain... Genevieve does it soo much better. Each time I pick up one of Genevieve’s books I am amazed by what I learn. There is soo much I do not know about my owns country’s history. So much I don’t know about Canada’s involvement in WWII. I did not know about the circumstances that led to the Christie Pit Riots. I did not know about “Orangeman” or the parade that was held yearly. I did not know that Toronto had a Jewish newspaper in the 30’s. I am sorry to say “I did not know” when it comes to my own country’s history. Genevieve sets the stage for Canada’s involvement in WWII by establishing the ideas and thoughts of the communities in Toronto leading up to Canada’s involvement. The story slowly progresses as tensions and unrest rise thoughout the country. This Romeo and Juliet love story follows Molly and Max. They come from complete different backgrounds, Max is Jewish and studying to become a Doctor, and Molly, raised in a strict Protestant household was forced to leave school early to help support her family. The events at the Riot were just the beginning, soon World war breaks out and each turns down a different path, away from each other. Family. Friends. During times of hardship we rely on our family and friends to support us, to sacrifice for us, to love us. With the love and support fo family anything is possible. Enduring a prison camp. Surviving a war. Chasing our dreams. Finding love, and keeping it. Genevieve holds the hand of the reader, taking them on a journey to the past, becoming a voice for the people whose memories lived in the moments in between. The week before the Riot. The month before Canada joined the war. The minute before Max is captured. The day Molly gets a job at the Star. The years they are separated. The moments they had before.... A read that will stay with me for awhile. A read I learned from. An author that moved me to ask questions about my Country’s history, and my family’s.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kendra Carter

    A big thank you to NetGalley for an advanced copy of Letters Across the Sea in exchange for an honest review. I loved this book and devoured in over a 2-day period. This was the first Canadian historical fiction novel that I have ever read, so I did not know what to expect. Overall, it was eye opening to learn about the political and social unrest that took place in Toronto pre-WW2. I also appreciate how the author addressed soldiers’ PTSD and transition to civilian life. In regards to the plot, A big thank you to NetGalley for an advanced copy of Letters Across the Sea in exchange for an honest review. I loved this book and devoured in over a 2-day period. This was the first Canadian historical fiction novel that I have ever read, so I did not know what to expect. Overall, it was eye opening to learn about the political and social unrest that took place in Toronto pre-WW2. I also appreciate how the author addressed soldiers’ PTSD and transition to civilian life. In regards to the plot, it quickly captured and retained my attention throughout the novel. Molly and Max’s relationship struggle is one that many still face today and Molly’s family’s dynamic is one that I feel many people can relate to. In addition, I liked that each chapter’s perspective switched off between Max and Molly. It provided deeper insight into their development and allowed for me to establish a greater connection to them. I look forward to reading more of this author’s work.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I received a free e-ARC copy through Netgalley. I read a lot of historical fiction, but this is the first book I've read that focuses on the Canadian aspects during WWII. This book in particular spends a lot of time on what was happening between the Jews and Swastika groups in Canada as Hitler gained popularity. The author uses real events which are pretty horrifying to realize that this wasn't just happening in Germany, but many other parts of the world. Another historical event that I wasn't aw I received a free e-ARC copy through Netgalley. I read a lot of historical fiction, but this is the first book I've read that focuses on the Canadian aspects during WWII. This book in particular spends a lot of time on what was happening between the Jews and Swastika groups in Canada as Hitler gained popularity. The author uses real events which are pretty horrifying to realize that this wasn't just happening in Germany, but many other parts of the world. Another historical event that I wasn't aware of was the Canadian contingent of soldiers getting sent into an impossible situation against Japanese soldiers. The atrocities committed are unsettling as they should be. The main focus of this story is a love story at heart between a Jewish man and a Gentile woman as their families are divided by WWII, but the world events happening around them play major parts in their lives.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Carol Turner

    Genevieve Graham has done it again - a Depression era - WWII book with an intriguing twist. I might have assumed Canada's depression was similar to everyone else's, but I didn't know about the soldiers sent unprepared to Hong Kong. A must read! Genevieve Graham has done it again - a Depression era - WWII book with an intriguing twist. I might have assumed Canada's depression was similar to everyone else's, but I didn't know about the soldiers sent unprepared to Hong Kong. A must read!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bibi

    This is the second book I have read by this author and she has certainly earned my respect and esteem. I will definitely be reading more of her works. I like that she researches Canadian history and creates characters and plots to tell tales involving segments of Canada's history which are not familiar or often talked about or taught. In her latest book (2021), Letters Across the Sea, the author starts with life in Toronto during the Great Depression and progresses to the intolerance, anti-Semiti This is the second book I have read by this author and she has certainly earned my respect and esteem. I will definitely be reading more of her works. I like that she researches Canadian history and creates characters and plots to tell tales involving segments of Canada's history which are not familiar or often talked about or taught. In her latest book (2021), Letters Across the Sea, the author starts with life in Toronto during the Great Depression and progresses to the intolerance, anti-Semitism, and prejudices which definitely smears the city's moniker - Toronto the Good - leading to the Christie Pits riot in Toronto and ultimately the role of Canadian veterans in WWII in the least known Battle for Hong Kong. She touches too on the horrible internment of Japanese in Canada by biased politicians, the Bowmanville POW Camp, and the horrible atrocities meted out to Canadians as POWs in Japanese Camps such as the Niigata mines. This book is first and foremost, historical fiction but there is much Canadian history incorporated which Graham brings to light in powerful story-telling. The Christie Pits riot In Toronto followed a baseball game and is sometimes referred to as an ethnic riot. The two main characters - Molly and Max - are inserted right into this historic event which saw a clash between Irish Protestants and the Jewish communities. Seems difficult to envision that Toronto once had Swastika Clubs and blatant anti-Jewish sentiments reflected in signs which reads "Help wanted. Jews need not apply" or "No Dogs or Jews Allowed" on beaches or in stores. On the flip side, the League for the Defense of Jewish Rights emerges with boycotts on businesses and sanctions on German-manufactured goods. In the early 1930s, prejudice was rampant in Toronto; as Molly observed "I seemed to witness more prejudice by the day. Protestants against Catholics. Orangemen against immigrants. Employers against employees. Government against the people...". Max, on the other hand, is keen to understand all that is happening so "he could navigate it expertly". He observes and reads about Toronto being "like a hot tin roof these days, with people hopping from one cause to another, demanding jobs, homes, and fair treatment, extolling communism, walking lines of tension as strained as a tightrope" Like today, the press reporting is flawed and plays a major part in fuelling division. Molly with aspirations to become a journalist notes "I could read a dozen newspapers reporting on the same thing differently. How do I know which is the truth?" It is perhaps the quest for honesty, accuracy, and integrity in journalism which propels Molly to take night school while also working to support her family and leading to her eventual career as a reporter for the Toronto Star newspaper. Her journey to being a journalist is not without hardships and the first part of the book illustrates the plight of families trying to survive during the depression years. The Dreyfuss (Max's family) and the Ryans (Molly's family) are neighbours with children of similar ages playing with each other, attending school, and participating in sports together. The Christie Pits riot changes the dynamics of their relationship when Molly's dad is injured by a tossed brick which affects not only his career as a policeman but also his health. The incident also strains the relationship between Max's sister, Hannah and Molly. In a more profound way, it strains a budding love relationship between Molly and Max doomed from the start because of who they are based on race and religion. As the war escalates, Max enlists expecting to be sent to Europe, first to fulfill his duty as a Canadian and secondly "to settle a score" with Hitler. He never thought he'd be sent to Hong Kong. Molly's four brothers also join the military. The Japanese forces bomb Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and quickly set their sights on Malaysia, The Philippines, and Hong Kong. The government of Canada "knowingly put 2,000 men as lambs to the slaughter" - untrained and unfit for battle with inadequate weapons. The troops were told that they may not see action and many, like the character Max did not even know how to toss a grenade. Canadian troops had no chance against the experienced and combat hardened Japanese soldiers. They fought bravely and heroically despite the terrible odds. The courageous Rajput troops (from British India) left to guard a hill called Devil's Peak were obliterated. The Japanese offensive was horrific - shelling and dive-bombing planes; besides they were in a position of advantage. The men were out-numbered; survivors captured by Japanese were taken on "hell boats" to Japanese camps as prisoners of war where they experienced a second hell. Max ends up at a camp in Japan; not all of Molly's brothers returned and those who did are scarred both physically and psychologically. The appalling conditions, torture, disease, starvation and senseless be-headings and death at the whim of sadistic guards are brought forth by the author's splendid writing. It is a tough read about the gruesome Japanese massacre, murder, and rape at the St. Stephen’s hospital which the Japanese claimed "was a fort, despite the hospital flag flying outside." Max returns home after the liberation by Americans and the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing. He was presumed dead. Molly is engaged to be married to a decent man at the Toronto Star but Max's return stirs up old emotions. Prior to reading Letters Across the Sea, I had never imagined the prejudices which existed in one of the most diverse cities today - Toronto. I was also unaware of our troops fighting the Japanese in Hong Kong during WW II and becoming prisoners of war. The most often told stories are those of Normandy and Vimy Ridge. I also did not know that while the Japanese Emperor agreed to the Geneva Convention, they never ratified it which led to inhumane conditions for POWs compared to Canadian generosity and the POWS held in Bowmanville, a site sadly left to deteriorate and one which I hope to visit. It was also an eye-opener to learn that the Red Cross was denied access to Japanese camps and that care packages were never given to the POWs but sold on the black market. I am intrigued by history and I am forever grateful and appreciative of our veterans for their sacrifice. I have ventured far and wide from Hiroshima to Gallipoli to Normandy to El-Alamein in Egypt and even further afield to witness first hand, sites and memorials about battles fought, won, and lost long ago. I must revisit the Ottawa War Museum if only to gaze at the medal posthumously given to Sergeant Gander, a loyal dog, belonging to the men originally stationed in Newfoundland, who saved soldiers by retrieving a grenade and moving it away from what would have been devastating to her regiment. While there, I must remember to see the Memorial Wall dedicated to those who fought in the "Battle for Hong Kong" when Canada (The Canadian Royal Rifles) and the British India (Rajput Troops) were forced to send troops to safeguard Hong Kong, a vague concern of the British who at the time were busy fighting Germany. Genevieve Graham did it again. This is definitely a five-stars book for me. The historical aspects are very enlightening and surprisingly, she manages to swing in a love story to make the overall read, very satisfying indeed. Highly recommend.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tessa Ward

    4.5/5 Genevieve Graham took me on a brand new journey through history in Letters Across the Sea. While this is a WWII novel, it covers many different aspects of the war that aren’t frequently written about. The novel starts by introducing Max, Hannah and Molly - all good friends surviving through the Great Depression. Molly is a young Protestant woman, and Max and his sister, Hannah, are Jewish. On August 16, 1933, the Christie Pits riot occurred in Toronto, where “Swastika clubs” began rioting 4.5/5 Genevieve Graham took me on a brand new journey through history in Letters Across the Sea. While this is a WWII novel, it covers many different aspects of the war that aren’t frequently written about. The novel starts by introducing Max, Hannah and Molly - all good friends surviving through the Great Depression. Molly is a young Protestant woman, and Max and his sister, Hannah, are Jewish. On August 16, 1933, the Christie Pits riot occurred in Toronto, where “Swastika clubs” began rioting after a baseball game, and several people were injured. Molly’s dad, a policeman, suffers a head injury when someone throws a brick at his head, and Max’s dad was blamed. This is the launch of anti-semitism in Canada. Jews begin to be banned from shops and restaurants, all while Hitler is rising to power in Germany. Because of these events, Max and Molly’s family ties become strained, and Max leaves for medical school without a word to Molly, cutting off hope for their friendship and budding romance. Time passes, the war continues, and Max, along with Molly’s brothers, decides to enlist and serve in Hong Kong. Many Canadian soldiers served there during the war, another part of history that comes to light here. While they’re away, Molly propels her career at The Star as a young journalist. She catches the eye of assistant editor, Ian, and after Molly acknowledges that her brothers and Max might never come home, she decides to give Ian a chance, and they being to date. Ian and Molly attend a press event to interview newly returned vets, and in walks Max. Molly and Ian start interviewing him for a series of articles, and Molly starts feeling confused about her feeling for Max. What I loved about this novel is the blend between real life and fiction. So many of these events really happened, and Graham artfully ties these characters into the fold while keeping much of history in tact. The focus is history, but I was rooting for the characters the whole time. I loved it. Huge thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an advanced reading edition in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, thank you!

  29. 5 out of 5

    HalKid2

    NOTE: I received early access to LETTERS ACROSS THE SEA through netgalley in exchange for writing an impartial review. Thank you Simon Schuster. Scheduled publication date: April 27, 2021. This World War II historical novel starts off as so-so but becomes riveting by the end. The story begins in 1933, (as Hitler is coming to power in Germany) with a little known riot in Toronto during the depths of the Depression. Canadians are struggling to find jobs and sufficient food and their desperation is NOTE: I received early access to LETTERS ACROSS THE SEA through netgalley in exchange for writing an impartial review. Thank you Simon Schuster. Scheduled publication date: April 27, 2021. This World War II historical novel starts off as so-so but becomes riveting by the end. The story begins in 1933, (as Hitler is coming to power in Germany) with a little known riot in Toronto during the depths of the Depression. Canadians are struggling to find jobs and sufficient food and their desperation is fueling anti-semitism. Against this backdrop is the story of a friendship between two families -- one Irish, one Jewish -- and a doomed Romeo-and-Juliet-type romance that is budding between Molly Ryan and her best friend's brother, Max Dreyfus. This first third of the novel struck me as more predictable, even bordering at times on stereotyping and the trite. But when the novel then jumps to 1939, and begins to follow the unfolding war, it becomes a much more compelling story of how war impacts families, loyalties, and the individual soldiers themselves. By this time, Molly is working hard to establish her journalism career in a male-dominated newsroom while her brothers and Max are among the millions of young men fighting overseas. The details of what these soldiers witnessed, what they suffered, and what they were forced to do is graphic, dramatic and not for the faint of heart. In fact, as someone who has read many novels about World War II, this one is among the most powerful in its descriptions of battle and prisoner-of-war atrocities. As the author explains in the book's Afterword, Genevieve Graham began the novel aiming to tell a story about the Toronto Christie Pits Riot of 1933. But, during her research, decided to extend that story to World War II. The connection between the two seemed a bit clunky to me. But not so much that it kept this from being an interesting read. By the end, I didn't want to put the book down, even though I sometimes did because I needed a break from the horror of it. Well worth your investment of time.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chantale Canadian Book Addict

    I received a eARC of this book for my honest review. I have been reading Genevieve Graham's books since 2015 and I have loved every book she has published. I have given all her books 5 out of 5 stars so of course, I couldn't wait to get my hand on Letters Across the Sea. I started reading this book one night and I just couldn't stop reading. I love the story and the characters so much. Genevieve Graham is such an excellent story writer and you can tell she does a lot of research for each book. If I received a eARC of this book for my honest review. I have been reading Genevieve Graham's books since 2015 and I have loved every book she has published. I have given all her books 5 out of 5 stars so of course, I couldn't wait to get my hand on Letters Across the Sea. I started reading this book one night and I just couldn't stop reading. I love the story and the characters so much. Genevieve Graham is such an excellent story writer and you can tell she does a lot of research for each book. If you are into Historical Fiction/Historical Romance then I do highly recommend this book. If you like Canadian Historical Fiction I do recommend this book.

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