Posts Tagged ‘1940s’


1947: Tommy Elliot, widowed when her husband was killed during WWII, runs the family seat Kings Harcourt. Life is tough for Tommy and her family and when a particularly harsh winter cuts them off from the rest of the world, things only get tougher. Her brother Roger has returned from the war with his friend Fred, who stirs long forgotten feelings in Tommy. And then there is Barbara, an old acquaintance of Tommy’s who causes trouble when she comes to stay.

Present day: Caitlyn and Patrick have a happy marriage albeit is on his terms. But they love each other, and Patrick is the one person in Caitlyn’s life who has always been immune to the charms of her best friend Sara. But when tragedy strikes, she starts to uncover hidden truths which lead her to question whether she ever really knew her husband at all. Seeking solace in an old manor house, Caitlyn tries to piece together the truth.

I am in two minds about this book. There were plenty of things I liked about it – I always enjoy a dual timeline, because I like seeing the two threads come together. The writing flowed and it was on the whole an undemanding read.

On reflection I think I preferred Tommy’s story, probably because I really liked Tommy and her sister Gerry. They were both intelligent and resourceful and battling against the conventions of the day.

Caitlyn’s story initially really intrigued me. However, I thought it was stretched out – Caitlyn could have got the answers she wanted a lot more easily and quickly, but she seemed to choose the most circuitous route. Also the denouement of her story when it came was ludicrous. Not only was the truth she was searching for completely unbelievable, but the method of her finding it was also ridiculous. I actually didn’t like Caitlyn much – she was pleasant, but such so subservient to everyone around her.

Overall this is the first book that I’ve read by this author, and I rattled through it, so I must have enjoyed it somewhat – I really struggle to pick up books that I am not liking. Would I read another one by this author? Yes, probably but it won’t be next on my list.

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Set across two different timelines, this is the story of Henry Lee and the girl he loved and lost…

In 1986, Henry is walking past the Panama Hotel in Seattle when he learns that a large amount of items which had been stashed there by Japanese American families, who were on their way to internment camps during WWII, have been discovered in the basement of the building. As Henry sees a distinctive parasol, he is reminded of Keiko, the Japanese girl who was his first love.

My thoughts

I really expected and wanted to like this book, so I am a bit disappointed to say that I found it…underwhelming. I can’t say that I actively disliked it, but it never really grabbed me. The historical parts – about Japanese residents in the USA being moved to internment camps (supposedly for their own safety, but everyone knows that it was because Japan fought against America in WWII – although most of those put in the camps were as American as anyone else) were fascinating to read about, but I didn’t feel like the characters themselves were ever well enough described for me to invest in them or to care too much about them – there was little characterisation and I never really got to ‘know’ them.

The writing itself felt almost like the wind of writing aimed at a child – simple and never very in-depth. were it not for the subject matter, this almost would feel like it was aimed at children, especially compared to other fiction books written about WWII.

So overall, the story itself gets a thumbs up for me, but the execution of said story….not so much a thumbs down as a thumbs sideways. Ho hum.

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It’s 1946, and author Juliet Ashton is looking for a suitable subject for her next book.  Out of the blue she receives a letter from a man named Dawsey Adams from Guernsey, who has acquired a book which used to belong to Juliet (and which had her address in it).  He writes to her and a friendship quickly develops.  Dawsey is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a reading group formed during the German occupation in Guernsey in the war.  As the correspondence continues, Juliet also starts swapping letters with other members of the literary society, who tell her about their way of life in Guernsey, the way that the islanders suffered during the occupation.  They all seem eager to talk about their friend Elizabeth McKenna, a remarkable woman whose current whereabouts are unknown after she was arrested by the German Officers.

This is a truly delightful read-in-one -sitting book.  It is told entirely through the letters and telegrams of Juliet and the reading group members, and each character has their own distinct voice.  Life under the German occupation was described in vivid details and the author(s) did not shirk away from the showing the dread and intimidation that became part of daily life.

However, this book is also very uplifting and humorous – making me laugh out loud on a number of occasions.  The characters are all very loveable and some of them are very quirky or eccentric.  I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with them, and felt as though I knew them all.

I would certainly recommend this story – to use a cliche, it is very heartwarming and a wonderful comforting read.  One to treasure and reread in the future.

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In what was a departure for Sarah Waters after three (extremely popular) Victorian novels, this book is set during and around the time of WWII.  It tells the story of four characters – Kay; a lonely woman, tired of life and love; Viv, a young beauty who is loyal to her Soldier lover, despite her reservations; Helen, Viv’s colleague who is harbouring troubling thoughts about her relationship; and Duncan, Viv’s younger brother who has been through some troubling times.

Sarah Waters employs an unusual plot device in splitting the book into three parts which move backwards chronologically.  The first part is set in 1947, when England is recovering from war, and we watch the characters moving through their lives. The second part is set in 1944, at the height of WWII, and the first part is set in 1941. (However, each individual section moves forward and tells the events of a few weeks or months in the characters’ lives.)  The second and third parts start to fill in the blanks in their lives so that we discover how they came to find themselves in the situations they are in at the beginning (or the end) of the novel.

Every character – even the peripheral ones – is described wonderfully so that the reader really feels that they have come to know these people.  They are decent characters, but each with their very personal and believeable flaws. 1940s London is also portrayed very vividly and beautifully, with the ravaged city almost being a fifth main character.

I have always thought that Sarah Waters is a wonderful and very talented novelist – this book serves to confirm my opinion further.  I found myself anxious to know how the story turned out, and it held my attention completely. Highly recommended.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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This is the story of Johnny Lim, a textile merchant, Communist and possible gangster.  There are three narrators, Jaspar, Johnny’s son, who has researched his father’s life, and as a grown man is looking at his father’s life in the 1940s, shortly before Jaspar’s birth; Snow, Johnny’s wife, whose narrative is in diary form, written at the time of the events which she describes; and Peter, Johnny’s former best friend, who writes as an old man recounting the events.  All three narratives at times describe the same events, from differing points of view.

The book centres around a trip taken by Snow, Johnny, Peter, an ex-pat English business man named Frederick Honey, and an enigmatic Japanese professor named Kunichika, when they voyage to the legendary Seven Maidens island.  The imminent invasion of Malaysia by the Japanese forms a backdrop to the story.

I really enjoyed the book.  Each narrator has his or her own unique character, and their telling of the story sometimes differs depending on their own perception of the situations they find themselves in.  Interestingly (and I imagine deliberately on the part of the author), the reader never actually gets to know Johnny very well, as he is described according to the point of view of the narrator.  Whereas Jaspar sees  his father as an evil man, Snow and Peter describe a man who seems at odds with Jaspar’s opinion (or course, Jaspar is also relying on sources for his research which probably differ in reliability, and both Snow and Peter are swayed by their own feelings about Johnny).

The story is less about the plot, and more about the characters themselves.  For me, the most interesting character was Snow, perhaps because her story was being written as events unfolded.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable book.  It is Tash Aw’s first novel, and I would definitely read more by him.

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This is the book that introduced readers to Private Detective Philip Marlowe, who lives and operates in 1940s Los Angeles.

Marlowe is hired by the elderly and ill General Sternwood, who is being blackmailed, and wants Marlowe to make the problem go away.  Marlowe accepts the job but soon finds that nothing is what it seems.  Also complicating matters are Sternwood’s two wild daughters, and the missing husband of one of them.

Marlowe delves into a seedy underworld, where he discovers corruption and cover ups, and lots of double crossings.  He also finds himself in some dangerous situations in his quest to uncover the truth.

In truth, he is not an altogether likable character, but he does have his own moral code which he abides by.  He cares little for other people, or for what they think of him and his occupation, and is something of a loner, unreadable to many of the other characters (and sometimes to the reader).

I enjoyed the novel, although the story – which galloped along at a fair old pace – almost took second place to Chandler’s wonderful turn of phrase.  His descriptions sometimes bordered on poetic, despite the subjects he was describing.

The only slight complaint I would make is that the female characters in the book are almost caricature-like, but that did not really detract from my enjoyment.

(For more information about the author, please click here.)

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