The breathtaking new novel from the multiaward-winning author of The Other Hand.
When war is declared, Mary North leaves finishing school unfinished, goes straight to the War Office, and signs up.
Tom Shaw decides to give it a miss - until his flatmate, Alistair, unexpectedly enlists, and the conflict can no longer be avoided.
Young, bright and brave, Mary is certain she'd be a marvelous spy. When she is - bewilderingly - made a teacher, she instead finds herself defying prejudice to protect the children her country would rather forget.
Tom, meanwhile, finds that he will do anything for Mary. And when Mary and Alistair meet, it is love as well as war that will test them in ways they could not have imagined, entangling three lives in violence and passion, friendship and deception, inexorably shaping their hopes and dreams.
In a powerful combination of both humour and heartbreak, this dazzling novel weaves little-known history and a perfect love story through the vast sweep of the Second World War - daring us to understand that against the great theatre of world events, it is the intimate losses, the small battles, the daily human triumphs that change us most.
©2016 Chris Cleave (P)2016 Hodder & Stoughton
This book took me completely by surprise. I listened to the first few chapters several times and It still made me laugh out loud with delight.
As the war progresses and the confidence and certainty of the main characters begins to disintegrate, the brilliant colours of the opening chapters darken and fade. The humour, which is always present, becomes bleaker and sharper.
I love the fact that Tom's jar of Blackberry jam takes on the significance of preserving colour and ultimately, redemption.
The narration was extraordinary. It was hard to believe there was only one narrator, so skilfully did Luke Thompson inhabit the different characters.
I cannot recommend this audible book enough.
This was a great story set at the outbreak of WW2, with romance, testing of friendships, tragedy and triumphs. However, overall it missed something, that could have made it a great book.
Mr Cleave describes in great detail various really unimportant bits but when the chips were down and something major was happening like war, death and tragedy it was just not given the description and emotion it deserved. I had to rewind a couple of times thinking I had missed something.
An example was the diarrhoea like explosion of adjectives for the opening of the blackberry jam, but the death of one of the main characters was a couple of short sentences, with no real emotion. So that's why I gave it a low overall score.
The narration by Luke Thompson was perfect, his women's voices exceptional which makes me recommend this book despite the problems I have mentioned.
This book looks at the second world war from a different perspective, that of a teacher whose school consists of children that could not be evacuated. It touches on racism in the 1940s, attitudes to disability and the class structure , love and the effect that war has on those who have to fight it. It also points out that not every village wanted evacuee children and shows how they might have been treated, a topic not often brought to light. Easy to listen to but also thought provoking
I went for this book hoping someone had finally written a book with a balance between a love story and a war story. That hasn't happened. This is a love story set with the back ground of world war 2 but no battle actually takes place (in terms of the characters locations).
However having said all that, this is a fantastic book which brilliantly captures four people, breaks them beyond measure and then provides a realistic but hopeful ending. Its very good just not a war story. I suppose the point of the book is that heroes weren't all in some field on France. They were everywhere, mostly, in this case, being bombed to despair in London and this book brilliantly captures that struggle.
So accurate about the time in which this novel is set, all already familiar to me, so moving, full of fascinating three dimensional characters.
Every book by Chris Cleave has been so worthwhile reading.
I fell in love with this book almost instantly. It is a wonderful book full of love. I can not recommend it enough. I think after Nocturnal Animals it was just what I needed to clear away the spite and nastiness of that.
A great book touching on the damage of war and the little told story of ethnic minorities in war time London.
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