Review: Rosemary In Bloom: War, Romance, And Feminism In 1940s America

Review: Rosemary In Bloom: War, Romance, And Feminism In 1940s America

I received Rosemary in Bloom through Book Glow’s Book Reviewer Program. I usually read only the writers that I am already familiar with, so reading a debut novel was very refreshing. Even though romance novels rarely impress me, I found this one to be quite captivating.

The Plot

Rosemary in Bloom by Khristy Reibel

Rosemary in Bloom takes place in rural Illinois at the backdrop of World War II. The titular Rosemary Ruhrmann is a simple, young girl, who dreams about falling in love and getting married, and yet, that same dream scares her. At the time, young men were enlisting in the army and many women were left alone to raise their families on their own, not knowing if their husbands would return from the war. When she meets Albert Jedoga, she falls for him head over heels, and their relationship seems ideal. However, once Albert joins the army, Rosemary has a big decision to make. Should she wait for him, and risk staying forever alone in case he dies? Or should she marry her other beau, Harry? She knows that Harry won’t leave her, and he promises her a stable life, but her heart yearns for Albert…

The novel is based on a real story, and Rosemary is actually Reibel’s grandmother, which I think adds a little extra something to it.

My thoughts on it

I generally liked the novel. It is well-written, engrossing, and gives a great picture of the 1940s America. As a reader, one can really experience the war atmosphere – the rationing of the commodities, women replacing men working in factories, the fear for the loved ones, the need to contribute to the fight. Above all, this is a story of two young people who had to grow up earlier than they were supposed to. Early in the novel, both Rosemary and Albert are very naive. Rosemary blames the men in her life for “leaving” her – her father who got sick, and her brother and Albert for joining the army. She doesn’t understand that none of them left her. Her father didn’t choose to get sick, and the boys did what they had to to protect the country. She believes that finding a man who will never leave her, who will always be physically there, is enough to bring her happiness. Albert’s naivete is much more dangerous. As many young men, he romanticizes the war. He dreams of becoming a war hero, and sees the fight as something noble.

The disillusionment

What especially made me like this novel is how Reibel deals with the development of her characters. By the end of the war, both Rosemary and Albert have grown disillusioned and their innocence is gone. The 1949 section of the novel deals with the consequences of their actions and their broken dreams, and is definitely the best part of the novel. Albert’s PTSD and Rosemary’s severe depression make them realistic, believable characters. This part of the novel is not just about their romance. It is about recovering and learning how to forgive.

Ruhrmann Women as Feminists

Having in mind that the novel takes place in the 1940s, many female characters are very emancipated. While getting divorced at the time was something shameful and to be avoided at all costs, Rosemary’s family doesn’t seem to have any issues with it. First, Rosemary’s sister Virginia leaves her brutish husband, and receives full support from her family. Later, when Rosemary has marital issues, her mother tells her to confront her husband, instead of being a silent, obedient housewife, typical of this decade.

Final thoughts

All in all, Rosemary in Bloom is a rather interesting novel. What I didn’t like about it is that it is a bit predictable, but so are most romance novels. Also, some parts, especially Albert’s and Rosemary’s inner thoughts, are sometimes repetitive. However, this is Reibel’s first novel, so we can forgive her these little transgressions. Her writing has great potential and I have no doubt she will become a success. If you are up for a touching, heartwarming romance, you will definitely like this one.

Mina Vucicevic
Mina Vucicevic

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ROSEMARY IN BLOOM by Khristy Reibel