The Light Over London
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.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Author: Julia Kelly
Hardcover, 304 pages
Expected publication: January 8th, 2019
Publishing House: Gallery Books
Fair warning! Tissues needed!
Positively touching, a sweet romantic slow burn sweep through two historical timelines. Separate, yet intertwined are the walks of two woman from different backgrounds and times, who want to follow their hearts and are thrown devastating challenges their way.
Moving back into her hometown to restart her life after a painful divorce, Cara Hargraves works on estate inspections, appraisals and sales. Her interest in all old things and historical treasures take up most of her time, as she studies over manuals and catalogs during work as well as on her own free time. Isolating herself from others and trying to make a new home, she hardly seeks time for socialization of any kind nor gives her new cute neighbor any thought.
At one of her on site assignments, Cara stumbles upon an old tin with a diary in it that was kept from the estate sale itself. With permission she is allowed to read the diary over the course of the next few weeks and she finds herself entranced by the strength, heartache, blush worthy and tragic moments told by a young woman who has run away from home to follow independence and love.
It’s the beginning of WWII, Louise is destined to be betrothed to a young man with a bright future as her mother sees fit and has planned it out for years…just as soon as he is back from his military duty assignment. But Louise is not happy. Not liking the confinement of her small town, she begins to dream big and of going to California to study math.
As her BFF cousin takes Louise to a dance one evening in town, she falls smitten with a young soldier that is on R&R for the evening. Cautiously they go on a few dates, always staying hidden away from the prying eyes in town. But as destiny has it, someone sees them and tells her mother. As the reprimands escalate, Louise decides to run away with her cousin to enlist in hopes of making a difference and creating a better life for herself other than the one her mother envisions.
It turns out, Louise accelerates on her aptitude tests with highest honor and becomes the special assignment of Ack-Ack girl along with 5 other smart and fierce ladies. As she is training and becoming close to her comrades, she keeps pen paling with Paul the entire time and keeping log in her diary. As the months pass, Paul and her are trying to meet up again, and after many unforeseen circumstances and canceled leave time, he surprises her and shows up at her duty station. One day later, they marry and consummate their new relationship…till they will see each other again.
Cara in the meantime is reading through the diary and her cute neighbor happens to be a history professor. As he inches forward in a neighborly way with a dinner to get to know her, Cara tells him of her work and the diary. Intrigued about the mystery couple and the abrupt diary ending, he offers to help her in finding out who the rightful owner of the diary is so they can return it to the family.
As the novel switches viewpoints between Louise and Cara, it becomes a connected network of similarities and revelations balanced with moments of the women’s relationships, failures and successes.
If you have been fooled like me by the blurb on the book that states: For fans of the 'Lilac Girls' or 'The Nightingale', let me say, that in my opinion that is not exactly true. I am an absolute fan of the 'Lilac Girls' by Martha Hall Kelly and the tragic story of the 'Rabbit-Girls' at Ravensbrueck, so much though, that I have done further reading on the subject and suggested readings from the back of that book. And this novel was nothing like the atrocities that happened at Concentration camp. For fans of 'The Nightingale' it may hold a bit closer of a match, but again the direct contact and influence of German soldiers in town and their violence was a missing piece in this novel.
However, 'The Light Over London' is a beautiful, romantic read that takes place around / during the WWII and holds it’s own for a great sweeping story that touches on the subject of woman in the military during the war. Specifically the Ack Ack Girls. This was a legitimate branch of ladies that was sent to assist gunners to target in on German planes to shoot them out of the sky from the ground. So as it goes, I went and looked up some info on these brave ladies and will attach it at the bottom.
To gather my thoughts and sum it up, this novel is beautiful and touching. The romance is sweet and slow, and I don’t read romance novels normally (…I fell for the blurb expecting something different). But I was pretty smitten. This book ended up being the one I wanted to read in the tub with some bubbly and the one that kept me up late at night reading.
The conclusion is sweet, not everything is a happy ending, but it checked all the boxes of closing the different plot lines…only for me to wish I could read on. So, already missed are the characters and this book will be one of my faves for its own flavor not to stand in the shadow of another.
Romance haters beware!Romance lovers embrace! This novel is beautiful.