Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Secrets of a Charmed Life...Review
She stood at a crossroads, half-aware that her choice would send her down a path from which there could be no turning back. But instead of two choices, she saw only one—because it was all she really wanted to see…
Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets about the war that she has kept for decades...beginning with who she really is. What Kendra receives from Isabel is both a gift and a burden--one that will test her convictions and her heart.
1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, hundreds of thousands of children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed…
England, during World War 2 is one of my favorite literary settings. The perspective is so different from what Americans know about the war and the resilience of Londoners during war time still amazes me. Books about sisters are high on my list because I am the oldest of 4 sisters.
I loved the alternating past/present perspective here. And how Kendra had all these questions to ask Isabel, but when she simply said, "What do you want to tell me about the war?", that is when the story flowed and Isabel shared her secrets.
War time stories are compelling and this one captured me right from the start. I literally read it in two sittings. This isn't simply a war story although Emmy's experience during a bombing raid was certainly harrowing and her fear for her sister palpable. This is a story about relationships: mothers and daughters; sister and sister; friends and acquaintances. It is a story about love and loss; regret and contentment.
I'm part of a newly formed book club and this was our first read. The discussions that followed were fantastic and I so enjoyed hearing the viewpoints and thoughts from these other women. We had a delightful evening and the consensus from everyone was that they loved the story. I don't give many books 5 stars, but this one? This one deserves it.
Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow. You can learn more about Susan Meissner here. You can purchase your own copy here.
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