Review: The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline


Title: The Exiles

Author: Christina Baker Kline

Published: 15th September 2020, Custom House

Status: Read September 2020 courtesy HarperCollins/Edelweiss

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My Thoughts:

Inspired by true events, The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline is historical fiction set in the 1840’s, and follows the fortunes of three very different women.

When Evangeline is found in possession of a family heirloom gifted to her by her employer’s absent son, the naive young governess is arrested and imprisoned in Newgate to await trial. She bears the deplorable conditions only because she expects to be rescued when her lover returns and learns she is pregnant, but she is convicted and sentenced to fourteen years transportation on Van Diemen’s Land.

During the journey to Australia, Evangeline meets Hazel, a Scottish teenager sentenced to seven years for stealing a silver spoon. The daughter of an alcoholic midwife and healer, Hazel offers Evangeline some ginger to combat her nausea, and the two develop a friendship of sorts, supporting and protecting each other during the long and unpleasant journey.

As the ‘Medea’ makes its way across the ocean, nine year old Aboriginal orphan Mathinna is taken from the only home she has ever known among her people on Flinder’s Island at the whim at the Van Diemen’s Land Governor’s wife. Installed in Government House, Mathinna is expected to embrace the English way of life, learning French, and ‘perform’ on command for the Governor’s guests.

I can’t fault Kline’s research in The Exiles, I’m not unfamiliar with the historical details of women’s experience of transportation, colonisation, and convict life, and I believe the author’s representation is accurate, from her descriptions of the squalid overcrowding in Newgate Prison, to the perils of the convict ship journey, and life inside a ‘female factory’ within the colony. Women and girls were subjected to excessive punishment for the pettiest of crimes, condemned without empathy or concession, their transportation to Australia was essentially a life sentence, if they survived the journey.

For me however the characters of Evangeline and Hazel seemed to be lost within the historical framework. There is nothing particularly unique about them, or their experiences, that I haven’t read in a textbook, or a novel on a similar subject. While I was interested in learning their fates, I didn’t really form much of an emotional connection to either of them.

Mathinna’s story illustrates the attitudes towards, and the treatment of, Australia’s First Nation’s population during British colonisation. Considered no more than ‘ignorant savage’s’, they were either cruelly slaughtered, or corralled and exiled from Van Diemen’s Land (now known as Tasmania) to smaller, poorly resourced islands, or camps, and forced to adopt a ‘civilised’ lifestyle. By the mid 1840’s less than 50 full-blooded aborigines remained alive, and by the turn of the century there were none.

The Franklin’s, who take Mathinna from the camp on Flinders Island, barely treat Mathinna better than a pet, and abandon her the moment they lose interest in their ‘experiment’ to tame a ‘savage’. While Mathinna’s story is significant in and of itself, and in general reflects the experience of her real-life counterpart, it doesn’t really integrate into the story as a whole. Mathinna only briefly crosses paths with Hazel while she is living at Government House when Hazel is assigned there to serve as a maid, and as such there is a disconnect in all but theme.

It’s not that I didn’t find The Exiles interesting or agreeable, it just didn’t quite engage my imagination or emotions in the way other similar novels have, though I do think it’s likely someone less familiar with the history will be affected differently.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins US

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Review: The Women’s Pages by Victoria Purman

Title: The Women’s Pages

Author: Victoria Purman

Published: 2nd September 2020, HQ Fiction

Status Read August 2020 courtesy Harlequin Australia

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My Thoughts:

The Women’s Pages is another captivating novel of historical fiction from best-selling author, Victoria Purman.

Set in Sydney, Australia as World War II draws to a close, Tilly Galloway is an official Women’s War Correspondent for The Daily Herald, and though she has found it frustrating that as a woman she has been restricted to reporting from the home front, she loves her job. While the end of the war is cause for celebration, for Tilly the occasion is bittersweet when her boss insists she returns to writing for the women’s pages to make way for returning serviceman, and prepare for her own husband’s homecoming.

Seamlessly merging historical facts with fiction, Purman’s focus is on exploring the post war experiences of women in this enjoyable, moving, and interesting novel. Though the end of the war brings relief, it also creates new challenges for Australian women.

Many women suddenly find their working life abruptly altered or terminated to benefit returned serviceman, and struggle with the loss of their independence. Tilly acknowledges she is lucky to still be employed, but disappointed to be reassigned to cover gossip and social events, especially when she feels strongly that there are issues women are facing which are more urgent and meaningful to report on.

Other women expect to settle back into a life of domesticity with their demobbed husbands only to discover, as does Tilly’s best friend, Mary, that their men are virtual strangers, struggling with physical injuries or mental health issues from their wartime experiences. Few men returned unchanged from the war, and women bore the brunt of the aftermath with no, or little guidance, and Purman portrays these challenges with clear-eyed compassion.

Some women, like Tilly, and her sister, Martha, discover after years of waiting, that that their husbands may not be returning at all. Tilly is increasingly anxious as there is no word of her husband, who is a Japanese prisoner of war. Martha’s husband survived the war, but has deserted her, leaving her to raise their three sons on her own without any financial support.

These are just a few of the issues for women Purman explores in The Women’s Pages, she also touches on the government’s failure to adequately provide for war widows and their now fatherless children, the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace, and the divide between the experiences of working class and upper class women. Through the members of Tilly’s family, Purman also highlights the postwar Union struggle for fair wages and working conditions, particularly on the waterfront, and its effect on women, like Tilly’s mum.

Heartfelt and poignant, with appealing characters, The Women’s Pages is an excellent read which presents an engaging story that also illuminates the real history of post-war Australian women.

++++++

Available from Harlequin/HarperCollins

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Also by Victoria Purman reviewed at Book’d Out

 

  

Review: The Night Whistler by Greg Woodland

Title: The Night Whistler

Author: Greg Woodland

Published: August 4th 2020, Text Publishing

Status: Read August 2020 courtesy Text Publishing/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

 

The Night Whistler is an impressive rural crime fiction debut from award-winning screen writer/director Greg Woodland.

Set in the summer of 1996/1967, in a small country town in the New England District of NSW, The Night Whistler begins when newcomer twelve year old Hal and his younger brother, stumble across a dog, with its skull crushed and throat slit, stuffed in a barrel near a derelict caravan. Situated near a creek Hal dubs ‘The Crack in the World’, the caravan is a source of fascination for the boy, particularly when he learns of its macabre history and the evil spirits said to dwell there from new friend Ali. But it’s not ghosts that worry Hal, it’s whoever is prowling around their yard late at night while his father is travelling for work, and making anonymous phone calls to his mother, whistling ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’. A mystery Hal, who is a fan of Sherlock Holmes, is determined to solve.

Sharing the narrative with Hal is Constable Michael Goodenough (pronounced good-no), a disgraced Sydney homicide detective demoted and exiled to Moorabool, he is the only officer concerned by the violent death of several pets, and the incidents plaguing Hal’s family. His experience tells him the two may be connected but his lazy and venal colleagues seem determined to brush them off as harmless incidents.

Woodland takes his time to set the scene, his experience in film writing coming to the fore in creating a vivid sense of time and place. With broad but precise strokes he brings the town of Moorabool and its residents to life, before delving into its many secrets.

Hal and Goodenough work well as a team, the contrast between the fierce and idealistic boy, and the world weary Mick engaging. I’d like to see Goodenough again, though clearly struggling with the reason for the recent implosion of his career, an impending divorce, and separation from his daughter, he is a good man, and a good police officer, who can’t ignore his instincts.

As the violence escalates and the mysteries deepen, so too does the tension. My heart was in my mouth during the last quarter or so of the book.

Compelling and thrilling, The Night Whistler is a terrific read and I hope for more from Woodland.

 

++++++

Available from Text Publishing

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Review: The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

Title: The Pull of the Stars

Author: Emma Donoghue

Published: July 28th 2020, Picador

Status: Read July 2020 courtesy PanMacmillan Australia/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

“That’s what influenza means, she said. Influenza delle stelle—the influence of the stars.“

When Emma Donoghue wrote The Pull of the Stars, inspired by the centenary of the influenza pandemic (also known as the Spanish Flu) of 1918 which was responsible for the deaths of up to 50million people worldwide, she had no idea that the book’s release in 2020 would coincide with another deadly global pandemic, COVID-19.

Set in Ireland, The Pull of the Stars is told from the first-person perspective of Julia Power, a thirty year old maternity nurse. It is October of 1918, The Great War is still a month away from its end, and a deadly strain of Influenza is spreading rapidly through the world’s population. In an overcrowded, under-resourced and understaffed Dublin hospital, Julia finds herself in charge of a makeshift ward for pregnant mothers with symptoms of influenza.

At just under 300 pages, The Pull of the Stars is a short, well paced novel. Ominously the chapters are titled Red – Brown – Blue – Black for the visible progression of respiratory distress on the skin as a result of influenza.

“The old world was changed utterly, dying on its feet, and a new one was struggling to be born.”

The events in the book take place over an intense period of just three days, largely within the tiny temporary ward, as Julia battles, sometimes in vain, to preserve the life of the mothers and their babies in her care. As the losses threaten to eclipse the wins, Julia grows increasingly worn and heartsick but a young volunteer from a nearby Convent Home, Bridie Sweeney, quickly proves to be an intuitive and able assistant, and is for Julia, a revelation.

“It occurred to me that in the case of this flu there could be no signing a pact with it; what we waged in hospitals was a war of attrition, a battle over each and every body.”

It is a challenging fight for the medical profession against an enemy they cannot see, armed with little more than the most rudimentary of treatments – carbolic soap, mustard poultices, whiskey and ipecac syrup. Though no one is safe and many die within a few days of Influenza infection, pregnant women are at particular risk, as are their unborn children. Donoghue is quite explicit in both the effects of influenza, and the experience of the labouring mothers, which has the potential to shock.

“Some placed their trust in treacle to ward off this flu, others in rhubarb, as if there had to be one household substance that could save us all. I’d even met fools who credited their safety to the wearing of red.”

Despite the narrowness of the physical setting, and the single narrative perspective, The Pull of the Stars explores a number of issues. Most notably those related to women’s physical and emotional experience of pregnancy, motherhood, marriage, and institutional abuse, particularly among the poorest of women. Donoghue also touches on the political climate of Ireland during the period including the fallout of The Great War and The Easter Rising conflict, and the reaction of the government and populace to the pandemic, which is not unlike our own today. I like to think ‘the wearing of red’ in the quote above is a deliberate swipe at Trump’s MAGA hat-wearing virus deniers.

“The bone man was in the room. I could hear him rattling, snickering.”

I found The Pull of the Stars to be a timely, poignant and compelling historical novel which will resonate with readers today.

++++++

Available from PanMacmillan Australia

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Review: Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook by Celia Rees

Title: Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook

Author: Celia Rees

Published: July 2020, William Morrow Paperbacks

Status: Read July 2020 courtesy William Morrow/Edelweiss

++++++

My Thoughts:

With the end of WWII, London modern languages teacher Edith Graham is recruited to join the British Control Commission in Germany as the country begins to rebuild. As an Education Officer she will work to reestablish schools in Lubeck, but Edith has also been secretly tasked with passing on information to both the British Government, particularly if she is able to renew her acquaintance with ex-lover Kurt von Stavenow, and to her friend, Dori, who is searching for lost friends. It’s a risky proposition in a country beset with war criminals in hiding, conspirators, spies, and opportunists and Edith will have to learn quickly who to trust if she is to complete her mission.

Rees has created a complex and interesting plot, exploring post war activities in Germany I’ve come across only rarely. The story offers action and tension, though I did feel it was slow to start, as Edith navigates a path strewn with suspicion, prejudice, deception, and danger, knowing a misstep could place her own life could at risk. She quickly detects traitors within her own lodgings, but it is Kurt, whom the British believe led the Aktion T4, a Nazi program that resulted in the extermination of the disabled, the infirm, the mentally ill, the young and elderly alike, who they really want. More than once Edith considers giving up, but she perseveres, determined to see justice done. There are several twists in the plot, but I was particularly stunned by the final chapters.

The detail in the novel shows that the author engaged in meticulous historical research, Rees skilfully creates an authentic sense of time and place, illustrating the devastation of post war Germany and the resulting hardships for its people. It’s not only the experience of the British and German that Rees explores, there are characters who are displaced persons/refugees from countries such as Poland, Hungry, and Russia, plus serviceman and spies representing a number of nations, including America.

Edith is an appealing character, amiable and earnest but quite naive when she takes up her post. Still, she soon finds her experience working under a pseudonym in England as Stella Snelling, a cookery columnist, of benefit, devising a code using recipes and the ‘Radiation Cookery Book’ to communicate with Dori, and discovering recipe collecting helps ease her way. Foodies will appreciate that many of these recipes are included in the book.

Dori has an interesting backstory and plays a significant role in the story which becomes especially clear in the final chapters. Photojournalist Adeline, whom Edith befriended before the war, also appears regularly. There is a touch of romance for Edith with Harry Hirsch, a member of the Jewish Brigade smuggling Holocaust survivors into Mandatory Palestine. Other significant characters include Luka, an orphaned Polish boy Edith rescues from the streets, her driver Jack, who is also a soldier and a spy, and Edith’s cousin Leo, who pulls strings from the Home Office.

Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook is a well crafted, absorbing and thrilling tale of post war espionage.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins

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Review: Finding Eadie by Caroline Beecham

Title: Finding Eadie

Author: Caroline Beecham

Published: July 2nd 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read July 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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Finding Eadie is Caroline Beecham’s third engaging historical fiction novel set during the period of World War II in England.

It’s 1943 and much of London’s publishing industry is struggling as the war effort’s strain on resources takes its toll. The staff of Partridge Press however are determined to stay afloat, and are hoping an exciting new book suggested by assistant editor Alice Cotton will prove lucrative, but are shocked when she declines the opportunity to oversee the project and instead tenders her resignation, claiming a pressing family emergency.

Alice can’t reveal her real reason for leaving, she is pregnant, and her devout mother insists Alice give birth in secret elsewhere, returning to London with the child only under the pretence of it belonging to a relative. Eager to raise the baby herself, Alice agrees, but within hours of her daughter’s birth her mother betrays her by handing Eadie over to strangers.

Finding Eadie is largely the story of Alice’s search for her daughter among the city’s unscrupulous baby farmers who sell unwanted infants and toddlers with virtual impunity. Beecham shares the darker side of the trade, which flourished particularly during wartime until the Adoption of Children’ Act was passed in late 1943, though I would have liked for the author to explore this intriguing subject in greater depth.

Alice’s anguish over the fate of her daughter is palpable and I could help but empathise with her. Reluctant to admit to the situation due to the circumstances of the child’s conception, and the general disapproval of unwed mothers, Alice has few persons with which to share her heartbreak, or her mission, though two women prove supportive. Rejoining the staff of Partridge Press is a way for Alice to gain access to information about the baby farmers she would otherwise be unable to, the book project she abandoned offering her some cover.

I enjoyed learning something about the publishing industry in wartime. It was a period during which books were in high demand, but a scarcity of resources made operations difficult, especially for smaller presses. The arrival of Theo Bloom, an employee of Partridge Press’s New York office charged with increasing the profitability of the business, allows Beecham to explore the status of publishing in both the UK and USA during the period.

Theo Bloom also serves to introduce a romantic element into the story when he finds himself attracted to Alice’s sharp mind. The development of the relationship is handled quite sensitively, considering the somewhat awkward circumstances.

Finding Eadie is the sort of light historical fiction, with likeable characters and a pleasing blend of drama and romance, sure to have broad appeal.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: The Silk House by Kayte Nunn

Title: The Silk House

Author: Kayte Nunn

Published: June 30th 2020, Hachette Australia

Status: Read July 2020 courtesy Hachette Australia

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My Thoughts:

 

The Silk House is an entrancing novel from Kayte Nunn, unfolding over two timelines from the perspectives of three women.

The novel begins in the present as Thea Rust reports for work at her father’s alma mater, Oxleigh College. The exclusive English boarding school has accepted its first ever class of girls, and Thea, a history teacher, is to live in with them at their campus residence, known as Silk House.

In 1768, Rowan Caswell is an orphan employed as a maid-of-all-work by the owners of Silk House, silk merchant Patrick, and his wife Caroline Hollander. The home is not a happy one, for the master’s moods are mercurial and the mistress longs for a child.

Mary-Louise Stephenson is a spinster facing penury with her widowed sister. She believes she is capable of creating unique silk designs that will assure her a fortune, but the male dominated industry is uninterested until silk merchant Patrick Hollander offers her a commission.

Nunn weaves links between the past and present as Thea bears witness to the echoes of tragedy. Troubled by her experience of mysterious occurrences in Silk House, Thea investigates the building’s history discovering it’s reputation for being haunted due to a series of deaths, beginning with that of Caroline Hollander.

The story of Caroline’s haunting demise is revealed primarily through Rowan, who is an unwitting contributor to her mistress’s fate when her knowledge of herbal medicines, passed down to her by her late mother, is ill-used. A suggestion of witchcraft, an omen of bad luck, and a doomed love affair all contribute to the inevitable tragedy that stains Silk House.

To be honest I felt the third perspective of Mary-Louise introduced by Nunn was the only real flaw in the novel, as I thought it superfluous, even though Mary-Louise’s silk fabric design is of some significance in the story. Thea and Rowan are definitely the more compelling characters.

Nevertheless, part ghost story, part mystery the pacing is excellent as the story unravels. Nunn skilfully develops a sense of foreboding and unease as she weaves in and out of the past and present. The story is enriched by historical detail, enhanced by its feminist themes, and enlivened by interesting characters.

Atmospheric and intriguing, with gothic sensibilities, The Silk House is a finely written, spellbinding tale.

++++++

 

Available from Hachette Australia

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Review: The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

Title: The Paris Library

Author: Janet Skeslien Charles

Published: June 2nd 2020, Two Roads

Status: Read June 2020 courtesy Hachette/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

 

“‘Libraries are lungs,’ she scrawled, her pen barely able to keep up with her ideas, ‘books the fresh air breathed in to keep the heart beating, to keep the brain imagining, to keep hope alive. Subscribers depend on us for news, for community. Soldiers need books, need to know their friends at the Library care. Our work is too important to stop now.’”

Inspired by true events, The Paris Library is an engaging historical novel by Janet Skeslien Charles.

A dual timeline introduces Odile Souchet, who is thrilled when she gains her dream job at The American Library in Paris in February of 1939. Under the direction of the aptly named Ms. Reeder, the library provides an extensive range of reading material in English and French to their subscribers, and as war begins, becomes a haven for the community. Forty years later a thirteen year old girl, Lily, living in small town Montana, introduces herself to her elderly neighbour, Mrs. Gustafson, marvelling at her extensive library and her ‘tres chic’ French accent. The two form an unusual bond, united by their dreams and their regrets.

The story of Odile in Paris is the more fascinating of the two, especially as it’s based in truth – The American Library was founded in 1920, and still exists today. In this novel, as WWII breaks out and the Germans make their way towards Paris, Ms. Reeder is determined that the library will remain open to serve the community. This not only includes welcoming patrons to the reading room, but also sending donated books and periodicals to French, British and Czech troops (about 20,000 tonnes in the autumn of 1940). Even when Paris is occupied by the Nazi’s, the library remains open, the librarian risking their lives by smuggling books to their Jewish patrons.

Populated by a delightful collection of multicultural characters, whose personalities are based on the actual library staff during that period, I enjoyed spending time with Odile among the stacks, easily imagining the good natured bickering of the regular patrons, and the camaraderie of the librarians.

Odile is a young, rather naive young woman, who lives at home with her middle class parents, and twin brother Rémy who is studying law. Her father, a police commissioner, is opposed to Odile working, preferring she find a husband. As the rumours of war become reality, Odile finds herself challenged by life under the Nazi regime – protecting the library, parting with her brother when he enlists, and losing everything when she makes a tragic error in judgement.

As the second timeline unfolds from 1983, we eventually discover how Odile ended up in Montana living next door to the teenage Lily. Facing challenges of her own Lily finds comfort and friendship with Odile, who tries to pass on the lessons she has learned. While I didn’t mind reading about Lily, I think I would have preferred that the author had simply chosen to concentrate on the American Library and Odile’s experience in Paris.

Book lovers will be drawn to this title, and won’t be disappointed. The history is interesting, the characters appealing, and the story engaging.

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia

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Review: The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

Title: The Satapur Moonstone {Purveen Mistry #2}

Author: Sujata Massey

Published: April 28th 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read May 2020, courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

As the only female solicitor in India, Purveen Mistry is uniquely placed to arbitrate a dispute between the mother and grandmother of the Satapur crown prince in The Satapur Moonstone, the second book in Sujata Massey’s engaging historical mystery series.

Temporarily acting as an agent of the British Raj, Purveen is tasked with traveling to the remote Satara mountains, southeast of Bombay, to make recommendations for the maharaja-to-be’s educational future. Purveen hopes to broker peace between the Dowager Maharani who insists that her grandson is to be educated within the palace as his brother and father were before him, and the prince’s mother who wants him to be educated in England, but the situation becomes more complicated when Maharani Mirabai confides she is concerned for her son’s safety.

Purveen has a knack for finding herself in the middle of intrigue, and in The Satapur Moonstone she quickly comes to agree that the life of the crown prince is at risk from someone in the palace. The mystery itself works well, and while it does build to an intense conclusion where Purveen finds her own life is at risk, I felt the pacing was off, with a very slow start.

Purveen is definitely out of her comfort zone – in the middle of the jungle, in the company of the local agent, Colin Sandringham, and among the acrimonious atmosphere of the palace – though she generally proves to be as dutiful and capable as ever, and I did think that perhaps at times she made some decisions that weren’t really in character. I found her unexpected connection with Colin to be quite intriguing and I’ll be interested to see if Massey builds on that in subsequent books.

As in A Murder at Malabar Hill, I found the social, political and cultural details of life in 1920’s India fascinating. The setting is a major strength of the novel, with the Satapur palace, made up of old and new and divided between the Maharini’s, reflecting the struggle of India between tradition and modernity, under British rule.

I enjoyed The Satapur Moonstone as much as I did Massey’s first book. Purveen is an appealing character, and the unique period and culture enrich the well-crafted storytelling. I hope the series continues.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

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Also reviewed at Book’d Out by Sujata Massey

 

Review: The Viennese Girl by Jenny Lecoat

 

Title: The Viennese Girl

Author: Jenny Lecoat

Published: April 28th 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read April 2020, courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Viennese Girl by Jenny Lecoat is inspired by the true story of Hedwig Bercu-Goldberg, a young Jewish woman who escaped the Nazi forces in Vienna, only to find herself trapped on Jersey, a small island in the English Channel, during the German occupation in 1940.

Hedy understands all too well the threat the Nazi’s presence poses to Jersey’s residents, and as a Jew, is desperate to escape their notice. Terrified and angry as conditions on the island worsen, she is forced to volunteer as a translator for the enemy, but uses the opportunity to wage a secret rebellion.

I wasn’t sure about Hedy to begin with, I didn’t like the way she took out her fears on her best friend or his sweet girlfriend, Dorothea, even though I was sympathetic to her anxiety. However I did like that Lecoat avoided characterising her as a saint, and as the story progressed I admired Hedy’s courage, her strength of character, and her resilience.

And while we are currently in the middle of a pandemic and are asked to remain at home, I can’t imagine how Hedy bore eighteen months hiding in Dory’s house sleeping in the attic, or under the floorboards knowing that should she be found it would mean death for herself and everyone she cares about.

The romance between Hedy and German Lieutenant Kurt Neumann is captivating, given as star-crossed lovers they literally risk certain death should they be discovered. Knowing that the story reflects the true circumstances of the couple definitely intensifies the emotion, and I think Lecoat’s portrayal of their relationship was well developed.

I actually would have liked for Lecoat to have taken more care to develop the character of Dorothea though. I didn’t feel as if I understood Dory, nor the relationship she and Hedy had, and I think that was a missed opportunity to add another layer of depth to the story.

Lecoat’s descriptions of the island during Nazi occupation do paint a vivid portrait, especially as she writes about the infrastructure the German’s built, and the deprivations the residents suffered as the soldiers appropriated their goods, livestock and food, leaving the populace to starve.

Despite the grim circumstances in which the novel is set, The Viennese Girl is a tale of hope, love and redemption. A well written and engaging piece of historical fiction.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin     RRP AUD$29.99

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