I love a good historical novel especially those set in war-time. Deborah Lawrenson has created a twist on the normal dual time narrative, in this book we have three narratives told up to a point with the denouement linking the three together. This is all helped by the way the author has captured both the time periods but also the different places our narrators are located.
Ellie’s story is the longest, set in the present day she visits the island of Porquerolles where she has a commission to re-design a memorial garden but her trip doesn’t begin well with a young man falling overboard on the ferry journey. Despite the delay Ellie is keen to get stuck in to the exciting task at hand but soon finds the owner, to be a little eccentric and his mother even more so. There are a number of mysteries hinted up and a strong suggestion of the supernatural which I wasn’t so keen on and this part of the novel ended with Ellie preparing to leave Porquerolles.
The second narrative is that of a blind girl Marthe resident in Southern France during the Second World War. Marthe starts of as quite a naïve but loyal girl but as the war continues she is forced to be incredibly brave as her employers, perfume makers, become more involved in the Resistance. Reading Marthe’s story was quite uplifting and showcased the author’s ability to develop a character in a short space of time and exploring without ever being exploitive the problems that someone who has lost their sight encounters.
Last we have my favourite from all the novellas with Iris’s narrative at the heart of the British Security Services during the war, based in Baker Street London. During the course of her tenure she witnesses loss of friends as well as a love affair with a fellow spy. The agents embark on missions to fly into France for undertaking various tasks on behalf of the Security Services adding to the tension within the pages. This was a sad tale which really bought home the danger that the spies undertook, more heart-breaking still when the author shows us that not all the spies were on the same side, or if they were it could be that they were seeking a different outcome.
This book was unusual because the three stories appeared to be separate not only because they focus on different characters and places but also in tone and pace. Ellie’s story is quite spooky and drawn out, whereas Marthe’s story quickly picks up the pace with plenty of intrigue to keep the reader’s interest before Iris’s narrative which has some romance as well as the hard-hitting realities of what life must have been like for those involved in this little spoken about aspect of the war. stories.
A great read for anyone who wants to learn about more than the fighting or homeland in war time with characters that are both fascinating and realistic.
I am very grateful to Orion Books for allowing me to read a copy of this book in return for this honest review.