May 10, 2007

Dream When You're Feeling Blue

Dream When You're Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg
Contemporary Fiction
Finished on 5/5/07
Rating: 2.5/5 (Average)

Book Description

New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg takes us to Chicago at the time of World War II in this wonderful story about three sisters, their lively Irish family, and the men they love.

As the novel opens, Kitty and Louise Heaney say good-bye to their boyfriends Julian and Michael, who are going to fight overseas. On the domestic front, meat is rationed, children participate in metal drives, and Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller play songs that offer hope and lift spirits. And now the Heaney sisters sit at their kitchen table every evening to write letters–Louise to her fiancĂ©, Kitty to the man she wishes fervently would propose, and Tish to an ever-changing group of men she meets at USO dances. In the letters the sisters send and receive are intimate glimpses of life both on the battlefront and at home. For Kitty, a confident, headstrong young woman, the departure of her boyfriend and the lessons she learns about love, resilience, and war will bring a surprise and a secret, and will lead her to a radical action for those she loves. The lifelong consequences of the choices the Heaney sisters make are at the heart of this superb novel about the power of love and the enduring strength of family.

Well, that settles that. After three disappointments, I can safely say that Elizabeth Berg is no longer one of my favorite authors. While I enjoyed Dream When You're Feeling Blue much more than The Handmaid and the Carpenter (which as you'll recall, I didn't bother to finish) and almost as much as We Are All Welcome Here (which was also a letdown), it certainly doesn't compare to her earlier novels. It took me quite a while to get interested in the story, and I never did come to care for any of the one-dimensional characters or their predictable plights. As I read, I couldn't stop thinking that this simplistic narrative was more characteristic of a young adult novel and that the author touched on all the key points about World War II as woodenly as if each were being dutifully ticked off, one by one, from a detailed checklist.

I've gone back over this review (such as it is) for several days now, trying to come up with something else to say. Unfortunately, there's nothing left to say other than meh. Not one to recommend. Glad I saved my money and borrowed a copy.


  1. I've only read a couple of Elizabeth Berg books, whose titles I can't recall -- what I do remember about them is none of the characters interested me.

  2. Oh this is disappointing. I've loved the Berg novels I've read, but they are her earlier works. I haven't yet read any of her most recent books yet...and now I'm not sure I should.

  3. Darn! The cover is such a grabber and I love WWII as a backdrop. I've only read a couple of her books and I was lukewarm. So, I'll trust you and skip this one. Isn't that a terrific cover?

  4. I have a few of her earlier books in my TBR collection that I hope to get to someday. It's situations like this though that make them stay there longer instead of being among my "next" choices. Of course I'll still get around to giving her a try one of these days.

  5. What Bookfool said.

    I wonder why Berg's novels seem to have fallen off. What do you think?

  6. I only read one (that I can remember) by Berg. It was received very well by others, but I thought it was a little less than "just okay" so I haven't read anymore. This one hasn't changed my mind.

  7. Anonymous6:59 AM

    Oh no, not another disappointing Berg novel. That's too bad. Hope your next book choice is more enjoyable!

  8. Guess she just ran out of steam, huh? Some authors only have one great book in them and know when to quit (like Harper Lee) and others just keep on going. Very disappointing. I loved her 'Pull of the Moon'.

  9. Before I even read your review, I was going to write and say, no book could ever live up to that cover. We all make up our own stories when we see it, and nothing that anyone else could write would feel as true as our own imaginations.

  10. Anonymous7:54 PM

    Berg is one of those authors that I waver back and forth on as to whether I want to read her books or not. If I was to pick one, which would you recommend?

  11. Sorry to hear that Berg churned out another disappointment. I know how much you've enjoyed her in the past.

  12. Anonymous9:39 PM

    As Kookiejar said, some authors only have one great book in them. Berg fortunately had several, but maybe she has run out of steam, or ideas, or is like so many popular authors just churning them out because her publishers and agents and readers clamor for more.

    Her true masterpiece, to my mind, is Talk Before Sleep. The three novels featuring the young girl, Katie...Durable Goods, Joy School and True to Form...I think are among her best, as are Pull of the Moon, What We Keep, and Say When. The others that I've read I've enjoyed, but I'm not even tempted by The Handmaid and the Carpenter or Dream When You're Feeling Blue (the title just makes me want to sing WWII era songs).

    I think I'll just reread my favorites!

    ~Janet in Fort Worth

  13. Katya - I know there were a few of her earlier books that I enjoyed, but I couldn't tell you much about them at this point. Easily forgettable, I guess.

    Wendy - I know, it is disappointing. But you know, if she writes another, I'll probably give it a try in spite of my negative reactions to her recent books. I won't expect the "old" Berg, so maybe I'll wind up pleasantly surprised next time around. Could happen, right?

    Nancy - I'm pretty sure you wouldn't care too much for this weak story. If you're compelled to give it a try, get it from the library!

    Literary Feline - I think you're probably safe with her earlier books. That's when I fell in love with her writing. I gobbled up everything she wrote back in the 90's. Not sure why these past few have been failures (imho).

    Bybee - I have no idea. I wonder if she's just lost her muse. Hard to say.

    Iliana - My next book was very good (A Three Dog Life). Now I'm on to The Birth House. It's ok, but not as good as I've heard from others. Maybe I need to spend more time with it. This past weekend was a bit busy!

    Kookiejar - I think she's written several wonderful books, so it seems odd that all of a sudden these recent ones haven't been as good. It's almost as if they've been written by someone else!

    Joy - Which one did you read that you didn't care for too much? Janet (in Fort Worth) posted a comment here with a great list of my favorites. Maybe give one of those a try someday.

    Lesley - Take a look at the list that Janet in Ft. Worth (annonymous) included in her comment here. I also liked Ordinary Life and The Year of Pleasures.

    Andi - Like I told Wendy, I'll probably continue reading Berg, but I certainly won't get my hopes up for anything great.

    Janet - Talk Before Sleep was the first of Berg's I read and I loved it. I wonder if it's not so much that she has run out of steam, but maybe I've simply out-grown her "slice-of-life"/"women's issues" stories. Maybe I need something with a little more substance these days.

  14. Nan - Ooops, don't know how I missed your comment as I was responding! Anyhow... I agree. It's a fabulous cover, but then so are most of hers. I've always loved the cover art of her books. I'll bet she sells a lot simply based on the art!

  15. Anonymous11:04 AM

    This is my first Berg novel and I really enjoyed it...I got into the characters, felt the aches, felt the impulses. And felt the same pulls re: marriage and impending childbearing (haven't made it that far yet). I was surprised about the ending and disappointed all in the same. Finished the book yesterday and have continued to think of the characters. Will read some of her others - the earlier the better it sounds like. Thanks!

  16. Anonymous - Yes, her earlier works are better. You're in for a treat!


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