Eliza Graham is one of those authors we simply don’t hear enough about in my opinion as each and every one of her historical novels is not only a joy to read they also have a real feeling of authenticity about them no doubt from the careful research that she undertakes.
The One I Was is split between the past and the present. In the present Rosamund Hunter is returning to a house she knows from years ago, Fairfleet. Rosamund has great memories of the old house but she is also wary of letting her potential employer know that she knows the place.
So what job is Rosamund applying for? A nurse for a man dying of cancer who wants to remain in his own home. There is a housekeeper and the potential for other medical professionals to come on board and help as the patient’s condition worsens and it seems like she’s a good fit for the household.
Her patient is Benny Gault. He is a successful man, one who originally arrived in England as part of the kindertransport in 1938 when he was just eleven-years-old. Benny lived at Fairfleet as it was home cum school for him and a few other boys who made the journey and were adopted by Lord and Lady Dorner.
The story is told in the main in the present tense by Rosamund and in the past by Benny and there are some distressing scenes as might be expected given the nature of the job Rosamund has undertaken.
That said, this aspect is softly done with enough ‘truth’ that it doesn’t feel whitewashed but not so raw that it becomes far too distressing to read. This isn’t a straight dual time-line novel as the scenes that we see are those throughout Benny’s life and we are aware of the connection between our two main protagonists from the off.
There are a number of strands to the story, the most poignant of all is that Benny remembers his friend Rudi Lange as he was when he last saw him in a secluded area shortly before he made the trip that was to change his life beyond belief.
I have to admit that I preferred Benny’s story but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of drama for Rosamund, particularly when an unwanted visitor comes to call at Fairfleet.
The author tackles this aspect of the war without drama, one of the reasons why I enjoy her books so much. The characters don’t tend to have an overblown sense of their own importance and so I find their stories all the more believable. Harriet Dorner flies planes, a female pilot would surely have had plenty to boast about but she doesn’t although her excitement comes through it does so without being muddied by any feeling that she’s boasting.
There are some moral questions that are posed within the book and although some of the reveals weren’t the surprise that they may have been intended to be, that didn’t stop me enjoying the journey through the years.
First Published UK: 21 April 2015
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Historical Fiction
11 thoughts on “The One I Was – Eliza Graham”
This does sound interesting. I think dual narratives are hard to pull off as there’s usually one that’s more compelling than the other, as you found. But it sounds like it was mostly successful. I like a country house in a story too, so this has plenty to enjoy for me!
I’ve enjoyed two of Eliza Graham’s books – Playing with the Moon and Another Day Gone, both excellent books. I fully intended to read more of her books, but although I have her fifth book, The One I Was (which I haven’t read yet), somehow I missed the others. So, this has reminded me to look out for her books.
Thank you for the review.
I hadn’t heard of this author before but this sounds fascinating.
I really loved a previous book of hers that I read in my pre-blogging days called Jubilee and then I read a later one called Another Day Gone which appealed too – as I say some authors just seem to slip under the radar for some reason.
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This does sound engaging, Cleo. As you know, I do like stories with that dual timeline, and it sounds as though there’s a really effective way for the two timelines to meet. The characters of Benny and Rosamund sound interesting, too. Glad to know that it worked for you.
It was a very cleverly presented book with those two distinct time periods having plenty to keep the mind ruminating.
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This is a new-to-me author. It seems inevitable in dual narrative stories that you’d be drawn to one over the other, at least that’s the case for me. Excellent review!
Yes I often find that too and it does tend to be the one further into the past too!
Now I am curious and I think I should explore this author. Thanks for sharing.
I love hearing about authors that get ‘missed’, or fly under the radar. There’s just too many to keep track of these days!