I’ve Always Loved You: A Story of WW2 in the Pacific
Firefall Media (2011)
Reviewed by Joseph Yurt for Reader Views (10/11)
To a far greater extent than possibly imaginable, World War II, especially in the Pacific, was indeed “foreign” – to our nation, to the young Americans who served, and to their families, who waited and worried. Adjusting to the distance and time away from home imposed by the global expanse and duration of the event – while a heavy and stressful burden – was in retrospect, the “easy part.” It is the most difficult aspects of the war, as experienced by one American family who paid the ultimate price, that are the subject of Ann Seymour’s non-fiction book, “I’ve Always Loved You.” While other writers, including those like Seymour, who were directly involved in that of which they speak, have shared their experiences, or those of others, as told to them, it is the grace and poignancy of Seymour’s account that makes it notable.
Seymour’s historical, biographical and autobiographical story is told primarily from her perspective as a very young child. Her family lived a seemingly blessed existence in California before the war. The first few years of her life, she was the only child of young, well-educated, loving parents. Ann worshiped her father, Frank. He was a leader, a winner, always had been. He captained and quarterbacked his University of California football team. Through his participation in the campus ROTC program he entered the Army as an officer upon his college graduation. But, as it did to so many, the Great War altered the lives of her family members irrevocably. The physical and mental devastation were universal.
The author’s conversational dialogue is easy to follow. But Seymour uses several other literary devices to keep the reader engaged. She is remarkably effective speaking in the voice of her very young self. Her recollections of the war’s continuing presence in her young life compel reflection. “I thought about Daddy’s assignment. The worst thing about having him gone was the mystery…Often I got mad that Mom didn’t tell me more about the war…Secrets make children feel worse than the truth does.” The tender, loving letters between Ann’s mother and father document heartbreak, and provide the reality of the true war being waged. There are, throughout the second half of the story, allusions to dreams in the letters of both parents. At first, these dreams reference seemingly insignificant feelings and visions. But later in the story, they begin to take on more meaning, becoming ominous and unsettling. They lend an air of spiritualism to the story.
Perhaps the most engaging device used by Seymour to rivet the reader’s attention is the skillful weaving together of the story of the conflict in the Pacific with her family’s own personal war story. In a parallel story, she poignantly humanizes our enemy by presenting research that reveals the same devastating impact the war had on the Japanese Royal Family. In terms of the depth of her research, the book is a tour de force. Without the history the book encompasses, the book would simply be another well- crafted but typical emotional account.
Survivors of past conflicts often lament the lack of appreciation and respect they receive from ensuing generations. Perhaps the answer is simple: we do not appreciate that which we do not know. In “I’ve Always Loved You,” Ann Seymour has used her formidable writing craft and her keen sense and sensibilities to create a powerful portrait of the complexity and cruelty of war. Like those who actually experienced the events she described, her account could likely change the reader forever. Why? Because of her book, now we know.