Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2018, Book Review, Books I have read

Seven Days in May – Kim Izzo #20BooksofSummer

Historical Fiction
3*s

 

The title Seven Days in May refers to the time that Brooke, Sydney and Edward spent on their fated journey from New York to Liverpool aboard the Lusitania, before it was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1915.

Even before we step aboard the luxury line we have a high society wedding in the offing. Edward Thorpe-Tracey, an impoverished owner of a fine estate is to marry Brooke Sinclair who has inherited a fortune from her father. Edward is hoping that the marriage will save the estate and provide a solid future for his disabled sister when he takes on the title Lord Northbrook. Brooke and her younger sister Sydney are dissimilar in many ways and Sydney is in disgrace having been arrested for her suffragette activities. Of course this has to be kept firmly under wraps so not to frighten the groom-to-be.

In a separate storyline we are in England, in Room 40 where codes are cracked and German dispatches are passed up the chain of control. Isabel Nelson has recently joined Room 40 on the helpful reference from her previous employer. She’s worked hard at evening classes to learn secretarial skills and is thrilled to be in the company of the other men and women undertaking such secret work; this young woman with a past feels like she’s making a difference to the war effort.

This is a book that promises a great deal and it certainly made for an interesting read, particularly as the author was moved to write the story having heard the stories of her Great Grandfather’s survival against the odds, of the sinking of the Lusitania as a boy. The story of the ship, the clothes and the taciturn captain all had an authenticity about them but the romantic tales that moved so many other readers fell a bit flat for me. Perhaps, despite all appearances, I am too romantic in that I never quite fully bought in that Brooke’s freedom and money in exchange for a title was the sum of this young woman’s ambition. Nor could I quite buy the fact that young Isabel Nelson was taken under the collective wings of the code-breakers and taught in such a short space of time how to not only transcribe them, but have time on the side to plot ship’s passages and run messages up to the head of the Admiralty himself, Winston Churchill.

For me the most moving scenes were of the tragedy itself. Here the writing really came alive with the scenes on the ship, and in the water having a feeling of authenticity that I had doubted earlier in the book. It was at this point the key characters fully came to life and behaved in a much more realistic fashion too. On balance, despite my reservations about the likelihood of Isabel’s talents being given an outlet so early on, and at that time in history, I preferred the storyline set in Room 40. I find the work carried out here fascinating and of course its origins gave rise to the work carried out at Bletchley Park during the next war, something which has become much better known over recent years. This area of interest was more to my taste than the one between the sisters and the impoverished Lord although I did enjoy meeting some of the hapless travellers on board as well as getting a sense of the safety measures taken given that even before they set sail there was some indication of the intention of the Germans.

Seven Days in May made for an interesting start to my 20 Books of Summer 2018 reading challenge and one that definitely gave me a deeper knowledge of this act which motivated the US to join forces against the Germans in WWI.

First Published UK: 25 April 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins
No of Pages: 362
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Author:

A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

13 thoughts on “Seven Days in May – Kim Izzo #20BooksofSummer

  1. Really interesting to read your review. This is a book that based on the blurb would definitely have appealed to me but you’ve highlighted in a constructive way a few shortcomings you found that I think I’d probably share. Reading some other reviews on Goodreads, they also point out that some elements in the storyline seem not very credible.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It sounds as though this is well-written, Cleo, and the time period is really interesting. So is the history of the Lusitania. I do understand what you mean by buying into what the characters do; that sort of thing happens to me as well. Still, this does sound like a fascinating read overall.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Lusitania story is fascinating and I agree that a lot of the interest in it is around what happened in Room 40. I can’t remember if you ever read Erik Larsen’s Dead Wake, a non-fiction account of it all? I thought it was great – one of those non-fiction books that really brought the people to life, especially the passengers.

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  4. This book sounds really interesting to me, I like fictional accounts of these actual happenings from the World Wars, I find them so fascinating and entertaining at the same time! I don’t know much about this particular shipwreck either, so that’s a bonus to learn something new at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m glad you found a lot to enjoy about this book despite your reservations. Always feels good to write that first 20 Books of Summer review. I’m so far behind on my reviews – I’ve been reading a lot more than I’ve been wanting to write! I definitely see mini-reviews coming up to catch up.

    Liked by 1 person

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