Picked this up for kindle and planned to read it during my holiday but only got round to it now. In some ways I thoroughly enjoyed it, but at the same time it exasperated me!
The book starts in 1961 with a teenage girl, Laurel, who is hiding in the treehouse at her family home. She sees something that you would imagine would haunt her for the rest of her life … Though actually her life doesn’t seem to be especially blighted by what she sees, and she only really addresses it many many years later. Annoying thing number one!
The novel focuses on the lives of three women. In 2011 (and occasionally back in 1961) we meet Laurel again. Her mother Dorothy is aged and ill and doesn’t have long left. Laurel and her sisters and brother start gathering to see Dorothy off, and Laurel starts to investigate some of the mysteries of her mother’s life … Including what she saw that fateful day back in 1961. Annoyance number two – Laurel and her siblings are all in their sixties and seventies now, but that is not made clear at all from the book. In fact, if I didn’t know differently I would have put them down as people much younger, perhaps as much as thirty years younger, through their mannerisms, the language they use etc.
The bulk of the book is set in 1941 in war torn London. Dorothy, a Coventry girl who moved to London for work, is struggling to survive amongst the bombs. Her family are killed in a bombing and she befriends and falls in love with Jimmy, a war photographer, who is also originally from Coventry. She also befriends Vivien, a beautiful, mysterious creature … But when something happens to their friendship a deadly plan is conceived that has long lasting effects.
Without wanting to give away any spoilers there is an interesting twist that I didn’t see coming, but I had to suspend my disbelief to accept it – could that really happen, would no one ever find out? There is also a cast of characters who seem to be very much on the sidelines but actually have a big impact on the story, including a doctor who apparently is privy to information that leads to the unravelling of the mystery – but I could never quite work out how he knew what he knew anyway, and why it would have been recorded in the way it was. As I said, difficult to say much without giving away the ending, but I found myself saying, “Huh?” more than once as I was made to take a leap of faith that seemed to have little basis in reality.
So overall this was an interesting book. In many ways it was a real page turner and I was reeled in to discovering what was at the heart of the mystery. On the other hand, a lot of the characters seemed very shallow. Apart from Laurel and Jimmy I didn’t feel I got to know anyone else very well, which meant I just couldn’t connect with some things when they happened.