Genre: Historical Fiction
Summary (from the publisher): With war threatening to spread from Europe to England, the sleepy village of Crowmarsh Priors settles into a new sort of normal: Evacuees from London are billeted in local homes. Nightly air raids become grimly mundane. The tightening vice of rationing curtails every comfort. Men leave to fight and die. And five women forge an unlikely bond of friendship that will change their lives forever. Alice Osbourne, the stolid daughter of the late vicar, is reeling from the news that Richard Fairfax broke their engagement to marry Evangeline Fontaine, an American girl from the Deep South. Evangeline's arrival causes a stir in the village, but not the chaos that would ensue if they knew her motives for being there. Scrappy Elsie Pigeon is among the poor of London who see the evacuations as a chance to escape a life of destitution. Another new arrival is Tanni Zayman, a young Jewish girl who fled the horrors of Europe and now waits with her newborn son, certain that the rest of her family is safe and bound to show up any day. And then there's Frances Falconleigh, a madcap, fearless debutante whose father is determined to keep her in the countryside and out of the papers. As the war and its relentless hardships intensify around them, the same struggles that threaten to rip apart their lives also bring the five closer together. They draw strength from one another to defeat formidable enemies - hunger, falling bombs, the looming threat of a Nazi invasion, and a traitor in their midst - and find remarkable strength within themselves to help their friends. Theirs is a war-forged loyalty that will outlast the fiercest battle and endure years and distance. When four of the women return to Crowmarsh Priors for a VE Day celebration fifty years later, television cameras focus on the heartwarming story of these old women as war brides of a bygone age, but miss the more newsworthy angle. The women's mission is not to commemorate or remember - they've returned to settle a score and avenge one of their own.
Review: My problem with this book is that I liked the overall story, but was driven completely nuts by the writing style, character development, and timeline. Regarding writing style, the author tries to recreate a Cockney accent in text, which was completely distracting since I often had to read a sentence three or four times before I could figure out what the character was trying to say. While the story was predominantly written from the point of view of the main five characters, the author would throw in occasional chapters written from the perspective of the vicar or the Cockney mother or the stationmaster, none of whom were important characters. It frequently didn't help develop the story, it just made the large cast of characters even more confusing.
Many of the characters could have used more fleshing out, particularly Tanni, who is hurriedly married to a neighbor boy and shoved on a boat to England in about three minutes. The next time we see her, she's living in England and in love with her husband. How did she end up feeling so loving towards someone who was basically a stranger, when she seemed to be so in love with someone else? No explanation was given.
With respect to the timeline, the first 90% of the novel was fairly slow paced, not much happened. Then all of a sudden, there was a catastrophe that changed everyone's lives, followed by a few pages of Alice's new life, then the novel jumped forward 50 pages. WHAT?!?! We finally got to the interesting part of the novel, and the author skipped it all! Sure, she summed it up in the ending (which is another thing I was disappointed by) but I couldn't believe she skipped what could have been the best parts of the book. It felt like she just got tired of writing all of a sudden, and gave up.
Maybe I'm just a sucker for books about how British women coped during World War II, but I did enjoy the story and the glimpses into ordinary life at that time.
Rating: 3 stars