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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
An Act of Kindness is a historical novel written by Ray Hobbs. Sylvia is a young woman who's signed up as a Wren to do her part during WWII. David, her fiancé, was killed in action. Sylvia's not really thinking about getting involved with another man, so she's a bit reluctant when her friend, Joyce, suggests she start a letter correspondence with Freddie. Freddie's a prisoner-of-war at a work camp in Poland and his friend and fellow inmate, Len, is Joyce's husband. Freddie's also not so sure about the whole thing either as he lost his entire family in the blitz. Somehow, the two begin a correspondence that survives months-long delays in transmission and changes in location as the men are moved to different camps.
Ray Hobbs' historical novel, An Act of Kindness, is a remarkable and stunning work set in England and in a series of work camps during WWII. This expertly researched story brings the wartime heroism, struggles and dedication of the British people to life. At home, there's the rush to grab old sweaters and woolen castoffs to unravel the wool and knit gloves, hats and sweaters for the prisoners; and abroad, the corresponding thrill of the prisoners as they luxuriate in the warmth of winter underwear and hand-knitted clothing, open up the Red Cross care packages filled with packs of cigarettes and chocolate, and read letters from home carefully and repeatedly. Hobbs also recreates the harsh conditions of the camps, the especially brutal treatment of the Russian prisoners-of-war by their German captors, and the horrors of forced marches with little or no sustenance and in bitterly frigid conditions. And through it all, there's the story of Sylvia and Freddie as they get to know each other via their correspondence. I was awed by the scope and power of An Act of Kindness. Throughout my reading experience I was living vicariously in the past -- and what an experience it was! An Act of Kindness is unforgettable and very highly recommended.