Maggie’s Wars is a quick historical fiction read at just over 200 pages. It starts out being told from a female protagonist’s view, Maggie Hogan, who is a female journalist just out of graduate school at Columbia. This told me straight away, with it being in WWII era, that she was a woman not only from a family with certain means, but that she’d be intellectual and savvy and ready to take on her dreams, no matter what societal nonsense stood in her way.
Being a journalist myself, I was thrilled when I read the synopsis and the first few pages and found out this was about a female reporter during the war. I have a penchant as well for the history of journalism. As I first read the book, I cheered on Maggie as she entered the The Herald Tribune, where she was offered a job due to so many men being sent off to war. Right off the bat, I gathered the sexist attitude that came with the times. You know the one that dictated that women can’t do any type of job, even if they went to an Ivy League school. And it never left throughout the book. I was sad to see that she didn’t overcome it, but in fact “played the game” as she flirted, had sex, and offered favors to get the story she wanted and to be a war correspondent. Though I imagine a character like hers would have had to decide which was more important to her–her dream and realizing it or her morality.
Maggie’s part of the story is told in first person, which wasn’t too jarring to me (though generally it’s hard for writers to write novels in first person) due to the fact that she is a journalist and it seems she reporting her life. But then we have the story of Johnny Stone as well juxtaposed with hers (and keep in mind that I mentioned this is a short book). Johnny fell in love with Maggie in an instant seeing her on the street heading to the Herald. His story follows him as he enlists in the war to not be killed by the mob (yep, he’s a gangster, but an Italian one, so he’s recruited him to go to Italy) and he hopes to see Maggie over there (“you know, not let her out of his sight”) who has decided to go overseas and cover the end of the war. The story at about 30% in begins to follow the lovers in their personal pursuits during the war and showcases their relationship through it.
I found that though I really liked the premise of the story, I wasn’t thrilled by the character development or the plot. I wasn’t happy with her reporting skills, though I am not sure why besides that I think she was so naive for being so educated about the protocols of war or for reporting heavy stories. Her reaction to the war seemed more focused on getting the story than on feeling the emotional turmoil around her. I’d have liked to see the author take more time developing the story, the characters, and the plot. I’d have loved to feel more connected with emotions from Maggie about what developments, news, and feelings that she went through while covering the war, or while missing Johnny.
As I evaluate it, I think my concern was that it all seems much too rushed. It could have easily been a 300-400 page book filled with slowed down character development and with the war issues broken down in-depth so that the atrocities and message in the book would be more realistic. It felt very hurried and things happened rapid fire, yet not in a good screenwriting sort of way, the premise of the novel is good for the screen–but maybe more like a 1940 movie rather than a modern movie set in 1940. I would have liked him to explore more of the story of American soldiers and some awful things that happened from America’s side during the liberation. He put it out there in this novel, I wasn’t aware of it or if it’s true either, even though I studied the Holocaust during my time in garnering my history degree. I would have liked Maggie to uncover that topic more in-depth and show her real reporting skills.
Overall the author had a good idea for a novel and I wouldn’t have hoped for more if I didn’t like the general outline of the book. But it seemed like a shell. If he was looking for a 1940 vibe, then he succeeded in that. It reminded me of a Dick Tracy crime noir yet within the historical genre. Maybe it is a historic noir with Maggie not as the sleuth, but as a reporter?
The book intrigued me and though I couldn’t read for entertainment alone, it did make me ponder it and the author’s intent and structure. It did make me want Maggie to be explored more and I’d like to see him do something else with Maggie as a protagonist, once he develops her even further and gives her compassion with the grit and emotions with the motivation. As an editor, I feel that the author should take a look at its structure and its intent, as well as his sentence construction, depth of details, and authenticity of characters.
It’s a nice read for anyone who likes a quick story set in WWII with a noir feel and featuring a feisty reporter who throws all caution to the wind in her career, her love life, and her life.
Note: I was given a copy of this book from the author via HFVBT in exchange for an honest review of his work.
Maggie’s Wars, Synopsis
Genre: Historical Fiction
Combatting wars on two fronts – one of fame and the other love – Maggie Hogan never wavers as a rare woman reporter on the battlefields of World War II, the Nuremburg Trials and the beginnings of the cold war. But she makes the mistake of falling for an officer, complicating her ambitions. Learn of what one woman feels she must do in order to make it in a man’s world, no matter what. Maggie’s Wars is a story about the ultimate battle between love and prestige, and how you can’t win them both.
“Maggie’s Wars is a highly charged story, with power politics on a grand scale…the frighteningly realistic descriptions and technical know-how is right on the mark and Phil Pisani’s skill at painting a vivid scene in the mind’s eye of the reader is excellent and packs a wallop.” -William H. LaBarge, author of Sweetwater Gunslinger 201, Hornet’s Nest, Road to Gold and Desert Voices.
Phil Pisani, Biography
Phil Pisani grew up on the north side of the railroad tracks in an upstate New York blue-collar industrial town in a rough neighborhood filled with the most colorful characters in the world. Factory and tannery workers mingled with bar and restaurant owners, gamblers and gangsters, good people and bad people, brash rogues and weak loudmouths, all spawned by the early immigrant movement to America. Italians, Russians, Slovacks, Irish, and Germans formed a rough and tough section of town where few from the south side dared to venture.
He learned to fight at a very young age, both in the ring and on the streets. Fights became badges of honor. He also was a voracious reader. His mother worked in the village’s library. After school, or fights or sandlot football games, he would curl away into the adult reading section. Enjoying the polished blonde oak bookshelves, tables and chairs, he would choose a book from the stacks and delve into its smells and contents. Reading soothed him.
He studied history and humanities in Pisa, Italy, and Oswego State in New York and later earned a MA in Political Science from Binghamton University. He worked as a labor investigator for NY and rose in the ranks through the years but never stopped writing or reading. He currently lives in Albany NY, with his wife Joanne.
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