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Lizzie puts a note in a munitions box and never for one moment suspected that a soldier on the front line would respond to it. And so begins a correspondence between them that seems to help them through the terrors of war. When the opportunity to meet arises, Lizzie finds herself falling hard for her soldier. Yet, all is not what it seems and Lizzie soon ends up with more than she bargains for. But there is more sadness and indeed a few twists and turns to come Lizzie's way and some of it did make me sit with my mouth open!
Whilst Lizzie is of course our main protagonist, her friends Eunice and Peggy each have their own stories throughout the book and I have to say, I found both quite tragic and profoundly sad. Eunice is a woman who has been through so much grief that it is difficult for the reader to comprehend the level of her heartache. Her coldness towards her husband who has been fighting on the front line is at first startling. However, all is not as it seems with Eunice and her story goes so much deeper. Peggy appears to be the cocky one out of the three of them. However, there's more that meets the eye with Peggy and like Eunice and indeed Lizzie, she is fighting her own personal demons.
The research behind this book is clearly evident and the reader is transported back to a time when trying to exist during the war was a real hardship. Its difficult to appreciate how families struggled during this time and this book highlights this very clearly. What the book also highlights very effectively is the struggle of women during this time and some of their battles with regards to equality. And, despite holding the country together when the men were called up, Women were regarded as nothing more than a poor substitute to a working man with little respect given. Decisions about their lives were made for them with little opportunity for change.
Susan Hughes has written an interesting book that I really enjoyed. Her characters are well developed and each brought something special to the book. The story was well thought out and researched and the writing style was excellent, keeping the reader engaged throughout. The ending has been written in a way that screams out for a sequel and this clever piece of writing has left the reader desperate to no more about characters they have now become invested in. I'll definitely be reading more Susan Hughes! A recommended read!
There were quite a few twists in the plot and plenty of story lines to keep me page turning, but some things that were hinted at in later parts of the novel seemed to fizzle out unexpectedly. It may be that I am a bit of a drama queen, but I was expecting more drama from the end of the book, although it did reach a satisfactory conclusion. It is certainly an emotional novel with passion, compassion, deceit, loss and grief, which seemed to me to be a realistic portrayal of life during the First World War, mainly from the point of view of the women left behind, but not forgetting the horror of life in the trenches. This would be a great read for lovers of historical fiction.
I was sent a copy of this book for an honest review
Although the binding element in the novel is a love story between Lizzie and a soldier with whom she corresponds during the war, I wouldn’t consider this novel strictly speaking a romance. There are other major themes which surpass the love story, such as, loss, betrayal, post-traumatic stress disorder, prejudice, marriage and motherhood, all against a backdrop of the final months of WWI and the beginning of the post war economically deprived and emotionally battered England.
I was impressed by the way it deals with the trauma and desperation of those who return home from war, and the emptiness and pain of those who stayed behind and witnessed the return of men whose minds and lives were irrevocably broken. It’s about how exceptional and extreme situations, like wars, affect the lives of ordinary people in their daily lives, and influence their perception of life and love.
The author describes the toils and peculiarities of wartime England, pulling us into this powerful and moving story of unprecedented sacrifices and passion. The characters are authentically portrayed, in their despair, as well as their goodness, and struggle for survival in an unfair and cruel world. The outcome is surprising, yet unexpectedly realistic, rather than romantic.
A must read for lovers of intense novels set in wartime London.
There have been many books on this subject but the aftereffects of war are sensitively dealt with in a very real way. The undiagnosed shellshock that many soldiers suffered from had a long-lasting effect, not only on the men but on their families too. If you love a family saga or just enjoy reading about that period in history then I can recommend this book.