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London Belles Kindle Edition
|Length: 451 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Top Customer Reviews
World War II-era history is a period that holds endless fascination for me, and as such I am always on the lookout for new fiction that promises to shed fresh light on those pivotal years of the twentieth century. After Annie Groves's novels appeared in my Amazon recommendations several times, I finally decided to explore her wartime-era fiction (and I'm not gonna lie, I loved the candy-colored covers!). Groves is one of the pen names of prolific British novelist Penny Jordan, who appears to have produced fiction at a rate -- and with a resulting popularity -- to warrant being likened to perhaps Danielle Steel or Mary Higgins Clark (please be kind, those are my best guesses!). :)
While wartime history in general is always of interest to me, I find women's history in particular during this time period fascinating as opportunities for women to develop careers and lives outside the traditional realms of home and family flourished. With men volunteering -- or being conscripted -- in droves, opportunities for women in those jobs traditional held by men (i.e., factories, etc.) exploded. Where fiction of this ilk might typically choose to focus on a "Rosie the Riveter" type heroine, here Groves sheds welcome light on the lives of women on the homefront, seeking to survive and thrive under wartime rationing, bombing raids, and the restrictions that come with making one's home on an island under veritable siege from Hitler's blitzkrieg. Groves's wartime fiction is ostensibly in part based on family history and reminiscences, occasionally lending London Belles the flavor of a memoir. The characters inhabiting Olive's Article Row home come to life on the page with the gentle feel of the romanticized time period -- one is given the sense of revisiting history through the sentimental, sepia-toned lens of the British stiff-upper-lip sensibility.
I loved the unlikely group of women with which Groves populates her novel. From the oft-times overly protective, duty-bound Olive to Dulcie, the sultry Selfridges' employee always skirting on the edge of decorum, to Sally, a dedicated nurse whose professionalism in the workplace belies the personal wounds -- and stunted maturity -- haunting her personal life, the women of Article Row must navigate broken hearts and questions of morals while seeking to live in something resembling peaceful accord. Groves's characterizations might like the clarity and spice I generally crave in my fiction, but she her prose with moments of unexpected warmth and depth that make London Belles an enjoyable foray into the realm of popular British fiction.
Clocking in at well over four hundred pages, London Belles is overly long, in desperate need of editing to tighten the plot (if I had a dollar for every time the word "whilst" appeared in this book, I'd be a rich woman), and arguably overly sentimental, but for all that I enjoyed it and look forward to exploring more of Groves's backlist. If this novel is any indication, Groves's World War II fiction is going to prove the historical equivalent of contemporary chick-lit, and as such I am thrilled to have discovered her work. Despite the lack of polish in her characterizations, I genuinely liked Olive, Tilly, Agnes, Sally, and Dulcie, and I look forward to subsequent volumes and the opportunity to see these women grow and navigate the murky waters of rationing, the proliferation of black market goods, and the ever-present threat of bomb raids -- all whilst (I couldn't help it) coping with the changing mores of the time and the tantalizing promise of romance.
"London Belles" by Annie Grove is an excellent book and she should not be missed by anyone who is fan of war-time books. Once again, Ms. Groves give the reader rich and interesting characters that are able to hold the readers interest. I can't wait for the next book in this series to come out.