• Interviews
  • The Lonely Soldier
  • The Opposite of Love
  • The Sailor's Wife
  • Essays
  • Why Soldiers Rape
  • For Women Warriors, Deep Wounds, Little Care
  • The Private War of Women Soldiers
  • Fiction vs. Nonfiction: Wherein Lies the Truth
  • The Frightened Muse
  • Racism Railroaded Justice in Jogger Rape
  • The Plight of Women Soldiers
  • The Scandal of Military Rape
  • Violent Veterans, The Big Picture
  • How to Lie with Statistics
  • Betrayal in the Field
  • When Johnny Comes Marching In
  • Women at War Face Sexual Violence

Author Interview about The Sailor's Wife


What motivated you to write The Sailor's Wife?
H.B.: I got the idea for The Sailor's Wife when I met a young American in Greece who had done what Joyce did—married a sailor she barely knew and moved in with her peasant in-laws to live a hardscrabble life. But as a journalist I'd also met other women who had fallen for men they didn't really know, moved to other cultures and countries with the romantic idea that love would solve all, only to find themselves virtually enslaved. I am struck by how many women I hear of—and know—who made this kind of mistake when they were young, and what they might learn by it. They think love will surmount cultures that are brutal to women, and they are usually wrong. I was also intrigued by the idea of what it would be like for a sheltered American who had lived a comfortable, safe, suburban life to be thrust into a world where everyone has lived through war, dictatorship, and starvation. The Greeks have had a rough history, even in modern times, fighting with Turkey and Cyprus, dividing between Fascists and Communists. During World War II, Greece was occupied by the Nazis and their allies, and most of the country starved as a result. Then right after the war, the country fell into civil war for five years, brother killing brother, young girls going off to fight in the mountains. Six hundred thousand Greeks died at one another's hands. Then in the 1960s and early '70s, there was the dictatorship of the Colonels, who jailed or killed many of their opponents. Greece is a modern, European country, but its experience of modernization has been wildly different than America's. In The Sailor's Wife, I wanted to show how this affects not only Joyce, but also how such hardships have affected her in-laws and husband.

How long did you spend writing it?
H.B.: I spent about a year and a half writing the book, but I drew on memories of my travels in Greece from much longer ago than that.

What was the most challenging aspect of the research/writing?
H.B.: The most challenging aspect of researching and writing this book was taking on a culture foreign to my own. But the reason I chose to write about such a different culture is because I think we all learn a lot about ourselves by learning what it's like to be someone else. I have always explored that in my writing. My first novel, A World Like This, entered the life of a teenage convict. My second, Bad Angel, delved into the experience of a teenage mother from the Dominican Republic. In The Sailor's Wife I hope to make the reader feel what it would be like to follow a dream, move to a remote island, and live the life of an Old Testament peasant.

What other books would you recommend to someone who likes this one, or who is interested in its subject matter?
H.B.: For people interested in reading about Greece, I'd recommend Patricia Storace's nonfiction memoir, Dinner with Persephone.
The Sailor's Wife