Book Review: Charity Girl

Charity Girl

Michael Lowenthal

Mariner Books

336 pages

Ok, so you know how sometimes I start off my reviews by saying that the description of the book really drew me in?  That was definitely the case with Charity Girl, by Michael Lowenthal.  The book is premised on the idea of “charity girls” during WWI.  A charity girl would be a gal who would have sex with the soldiers in order to boost morale, if you will.  However, when you have a lot of people having casual sex, STDs become a problem.  Syphilis is one of the major STDs going around left and right, and in order to keep the venereal diseases at bay, girls who are found to be suffering from them are quarantined against their will in group homes.  The viewpoint during this time is along the lines of protecting the poor, innocent soldiers who have to protect themselves from wild, trampy girls. Unfortunately for Freida Mintz, she gets caught up in all of this brouhaha. 

Freida is a factory girl living in Boston during the war.  Not yet 18, she has run away from home but is thrilled to be making it on her own.  She loves to go out dancing with her friend and although times are tough, she has a great outlook.  Then her life is turned upside down by a boy—Felix Morse.  Felix is a soldier and his father is a high rolling businessman.  Nonetheless, Felix and Freida fall in love, which, in turn, leads to the consummation of their relationship.  Not long after, Felix is discovered to have syphilis and what does he do but point the finger at Freida! This draws the attention of Ms Sprague of the Committee on Prevention of Social Evils Surrounding Military Camps.  Mrs Sprague is on a mission to keep the health and souls of the soldiers clean and she is after Freida.  Freida escapes by leaving for Fort Deven to find Felix, but she is apprehended before she sees him and admitted into a group home, where she and other girls her age are basically imprisoned.

Sounds too far fetched to be true, doesn’t it?  I would tend to agree.  I have no idea if this is something that really went on during WWI, but I have never heard of it, nor have I found any evidence to support it (not that I did any research—I just Googled it).  If it is true—it is shocking but not surprising. 

I really had a bone to pick with both Freida and Felix.  With Felix, it was hard to determine whether he was being genuine or a total creepster.  He always had a good excuse for the missteps he made and he would then make it up to Freida, only to make another mistake soon after.  Freida was reprehensible as well because she just kept making excuse after excuse for the way Felix was behaving.  I guess maybe I can see the first few times but come on—the guy played you.  By the end of the book, I was pretty much fed up with Freida.

Overall, I thought this was well executed historical fiction.  And let’s be honest, plotlines don’t get much more interesting than this!

Other Reviews:

Bookgirl’s Nightstand

Bloody Hell, It’s a Book Barrage!

I borrowed this book from my local library.

4 Responses

  1. Hmmm, I’ve never heard of such a thing, either…but then, I’ve never heard of a lot of things. It doesn’t sound like something that 1940s Americans would go for, though.

  2. I really like reading about this time period, and I’m a total cover ho (love this one), so I’m in! Hope my ‘brary has it.

  3. Charity girls huh? What a fascinating, intriguing, and horrifying concept. Now I want to find a whole book about them.

  4. I honestly was in shock when I read about what happened. Apparently it did although I haven’t really gone out and done any other research on my own. And, I didn’t like Felix. I don’t think he was a good guy at all and although Freida got on my nerves at times in the end I just felt sorry for her.

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