Sleeping Through War
by Jackie Carreira
It is May 1968. Students are rioting, civil rights are being fought and died for, nuclear bombs are being tested, and war is raging in Vietnam. For three ordinary women in Lisbon, London and Washington life must go on as usual. For them, just to survive is an act of courage. How much has really changed in 50 years?
Sleeping Through War is one of those books that I can’t just run to my computer and write a review for. It’s a book I have to ponder because it’s very thought provoking, and it’s really makes you think.
It’s set in May of 1968. It’s a very volatile time around the world, and the author includes chapters of real-life events that are happening in the world while the story revolves around three very different women. Each woman deals with social issues at the time: women’s issues, racial issues, and the war in Vietnam.
Readers first meet Amalia who lives in Portugal. She is a widow as well as a single mother, and sewing doesn’t pay the bills. She had to make choices that sadly many women have had to make throughout history to provide a better home for her child. She epitomizes what true love is for a child…giving up parts of herself to provide him with a safe environment. Many would view her as weak, but I didn’t. She was a strong woman who was doing the best she could do with the choices she was given.
Rose lives in London. She moved from St. Lucia to be a nurse in a nursing home, caring for older, white patients. She is faced with prejudice every day based on her skin color. She always manages to rise above it, showing kindness to those around her. Some others in her situation may not have the patience or kindness in their hearts like she did. Again, some would see that as a weakness. Like with Amalia, I saw it as strength. Instead of bitterness, she chose to find her own happiness, not dependent on others.
Mrs. Johnson is a mother who has a son serving in Vietnam. Unlike with Amalie and Rose, much of what we learn of her life is in the form of letters written to her son. She tells him about life at home, but she also voices her uncertainty of why her son and so many other young men were in that war. She was married, but she showed a strength her husband didn’t have.
The book was emotional, and at times, it was very sad. I thought it was well-written and written with a lot of detail. I felt like I was in Portugal with Amalie, in London with Rose in her small apartment, and with Mrs. Johnson in Washington. Each woman was from a very different background, yet they each illustrated a strength in situations they found themselves in and the way each of them chose to face them.
Jackie Carreira is a writer, musician, designer, co-founder of QuirkHouse Theatre Company, and award-winning playwright. She mostly grew up and went to school in Hackney, East London, but spent part of her early childhood with grandparents in Lisbon’s Old Quarter. Her colourful early life has greatly influenced this novel. Jackie now lives in leafy Suffolk with her actor husband, AJ Deane, two cats and too many books.