Julia Kelly comes to the blog today with her woman’s fiction title that mixes past and present in
The Light Over London
Cara is working for and learning the antiques trade after a series of losses have her back in the area she lived during university. The loss of her parents to a drunk driver, her divorce from her college sweetheart, and cleaning up the mounds of debt created by her ex have her in a state of retreat – retreat from the emotional upheaval, retreat from the hurt and above all, retreat from the chance of having to open herself again. Her job as an assistant to an antiques dealer, which requires her to study and be prepared with answers to origin, age, craftsman, value, etc. I would have been incredibly happy with this story had it been focused on Cara, her learning what she needs for work, and discovering a mystery from the past. But, the story adds another layer, one that is heavily laden with romance, even as her newly acquired neighbor is a medieval history lecturer, familiar with researching, digging and calling in favors – favors that he calls in to help Cara in her search. From the introduction of Liam, the story does have a bit of an uphill battle to decide which element is more substantial, romance, historic or the questions for and about her grandmother. For Cara’s new life is in close proximity to her Grandmother Lil, a character at 94 who makes her own decisions, has a busy social life, is full of advice and charm, and refuses to discuss her own time during the war. Yes, there are plenty of different elements, but London does manage to make weave the three elements of the story (past, present and mystery) into a blanket that slowly unfurls and builds as you read on.
On an estate appraisal, Cara discovers an old stylized biscuit tin, inside is contained some bits of a life and a diary written during World War II by a young Cornish woman. Intrigued by the diary and the connection to questions stirred by a photograph of the girl in the uniform of the Auxilliary Territorial Services (ATS) a branch of the army, the same uniform that her grandmother wore during the war. Not knowing her grandmother Iris’ story, and deciding that discovering the author of the diary and returning the items to her family is important, Cara begins reading the diary, determined to ask her grandmother for answers. With the arrival of her new neighbor, Liam, a history lecturer, his interest is also piqued, and the two begin to dissect the clues on the way to solving the story. With the calming influence of Liam, and his steady and quiet demeanor, bits of the diarist Louise’s life unfold, gripping for the danger and courage, as well as the intrigue around her mysterious ‘flyer boyfriend’ Paul.
While London manages to balance the three elements of this story reasonably well, we learn of Cara’s marriage, Louise’s service and the niggling questions that have Cara using Louise’s diary as an entrée to her own answers about her grandmother’s life and the multitude of questions she has about both her grandmother’s time in the war and the reasons she won’t speak of it. With answers and trust, both Cara and Liam both grow closer, even as the mysteries of Iris’ service and who Lillan was grow, and Liam’s connections to other historians bring answers not wholly unexpected for Louise, if one reads the diary entries carefully. Interesting for the connections and a fuller picture of the women serving in the ATS, the unfolding of answers bring Cara some long-awaited answers in her journey to moving forward with her life. An interesting read, full of emotion, lots of facts and a sense of London (and Great Britain) in the midst of war, this is better defined as a contemporary woman’s fiction with historic, mystery and romantic elements, but engaging and intriguing for those wanting an afternoon of diversion.
Title: The Light Over London
Author: Julia Kelly
Genre: British, Historic Woman's Fiction, Romantic Elements, Setting: Britain, World War II
Published by: Gallery Books
Published on: 8 January, 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 10 Hours
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Book Depository ♦ Google ♦Audible
Reminiscent of Martha Hall Kelly's Lilac Girls and Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, this sweeping, entrancing story is a must-read for fans of remarkable women rising to challenges they could never have predicted.
It’s always been easier for Cara Hargraves to bury herself in the past than confront the present, which is why working with a gruff but brilliant antiques dealer is perfect. While clearing out an estate, she pries open an old tin that holds the relics of a lost relationship: among the treasures, a World War II-era diary and a photograph of a young woman in uniform. Eager to find the author of the hauntingly beautiful, unfinished diary, Cara digs into this soldier’s life, but soon realizes she may not have been ready for the stark reality of wartime London she finds within the pages.
In 1941, nineteen-year-old Louise Keene’s life had been decided for her—she’ll wait at home in her Cornish village until her wealthy suitor returns from war to ask for her hand. But when Louise unexpectedly meets Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton, a dashing RAF pilot stationed at a local base, everything changes. And changes again when Paul’s unit is deployed without warning.
Desperate for a larger life, Louise joins the women’s branch of the British Army in the anti-aircraft gun unit as a Gunner Girl. As bombs fall on London, she and the other Gunner Girls relish in their duties to be exact in their calculations, and quick in their identification of enemy planes during air raids. The only thing that gets Louise through those dark, bullet-filled nights is knowing she and Paul will be together when the war is over. But when a bundle of her letters to him are returned unanswered, she learns that wartime romance can have a much darker side.
Illuminating the story of these two women separated by generations and experience, Julia Kelly transports us to World War II London in this heartbreakingly beautiful novel through forgotten antique treasures, remembered triumphs, and fierce family ties.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.