The story of four Londoners - three women and a young man with a past, drawn with absolute truth and intimacy. Kay, who drove an ambulance during the war and lived life at full throttle, now dresses in mannish clothes and wanders the streets with a restless hunger, searching...Helen, clever, sweet, much-loved, harbours a painful secret...Viv, glamour girl, is stubbornly, even foolishly loyal, to her soldier lover...Duncan, an apparent innocent, has had his own demons to fight during the war. Their lives, and their secrets connect in sometimes startling ways. War leads to strange alliances...Tender, tragic and beautifully poignant, set against the backdrop of feats of heroism both epic and ordinary, here is a novel of relationships that offers up subtle surprises and twists.
I was recommended this book by a good friend but kind of forgot all about it, if I am honest. It was not until I saw an advert on the BBC for their new season in which clips for an adaptation for the book are mentioned, that I thought "hmmm.. I had better read that then, before it airs".
I have to be frank, I blew a little hot and cold with this novel at the beginning. Now, that could have just been me, out of "read mode" again, so I pressed on. And I am so pleased that I did.
The first thing that struck me about this story is the chronology of it. It runs backwards from 1948 to 1941 with years in between. So, you find out how it all ends and then learn the links to what you already know as you read on. This premise I found incredibly refreshing. As I read more, I found myself saying, literally out loud "Ahhhhhh! I geddit!!"
I love the way that all characters are subtly entwined, how their lives, although being lived during World War II, are carrying on. Love is found, heartache is shouldered, lives are lost, trauma is endured. To the backdrop of an incredibly turbulent time in itself.
I liked each character enough that I cared about what happened to them, but there are parts of the book that shall stay with me in a "this is the bit that made me weep on the train" kind of way. Not directly because of loss - but due to the situation of one character and her desperation in one line. Oh, it got me. It got me good.
I am interested to see the screening of this as a drama, to see if the characters are portrayed as I have imagined them in my head.
If you have been pondering this novel - it is certainly worth the read. Most definitely.
A stonking 7/10 from meeeeeeeeeeee!