Expected Publication: May 3, 2016
Format: E-book from netgalley
Chris Cleave is a very talented writer who understands people and relationships so well. Having loved his novel Little Bee, I was very excited to read this book. In this epic WW2 historical fiction novel, he deftly describes the area, the people and their relationships as shaped by love, war, and other circumstances. This novel follows two main characters Alistair and Mary through their experience of the war and how it they cope with loss, love, and various other hardships.
It is a coming-of-age novel about Mary North who suddenly steps out of her life of luxury with the onset of war and puts herself to work as a teacher, falls in love, experiences loss, addiction and many more effects of the war. There is so much truth to relationships (romantic and non-romantic) as depicted in this novel…the deep hurts they can cause but the huge love and support that is there if both parties are open to it.
I found it interesting and heartbreaking to read about the race relationships of the time in England. Chris Cleave cleverly shows how people will play the roles they are ascribed to in order to not rock the boat.
There is so much to this book! Excellent writing, beautiful character and relationship development, and well researched history. For whatever reason, perhaps the state of mind I was while reading, it felt lengthy and I felt like I was struggling to get through it at times. For this reason, I can only give it
Click here to see an interactive historical map of London from this time period.
map of Malta, 1941-1942
- Describe Hilda and Mary’s friendship. How is it affected by their appearances?
- What is it about teaching that Mary loves?
- Why do you think Mary is drawn into helping Zachary?
- What do you think Mary loved about Tom?
- How did you feel about her falling for Alistair while Tom was still alive?
- What is the meaning of the title?
- Why do you think Alistair has his friend, Simonson, start to write to Hilda?
- When Alistair returns to the war, why are Mary and Alistair initially strange with each other?