A manuscript, wrapped in string, appeared at the Hodder and Stoughton offices. Attached was a note: I used to be a Hodder author. I am now one of the few people left who were alive at the time of the Second World War, one of the only people who can capture the feeling of those times. I have written it into a book, and this is it. (My paraphrase).
So far, so exciting. But sadly, this is the story OF the book, not in the book. Author Frank White, in his own words now, says: “What I aimed to do was to capture the feeling of those times and remind people of what the country went through.” If that is so, my main takeaway from this book is that during these times everyone committed adultery.
Theo, Phyllis and Jessica Melville and Oskar Grunewald spend holidays together at the Melville Estate, a house done up to look like a castle. When Theo dies in the war the whole families are thrown into mourning and their own particular ways of trying to move on in life.
This book was strange. At it’s best moments it reminded me of I Capture the Castle, but only really because of the big house. Really each character alienated me, I didn’t enjoy the unfolding of the various story lines and though I did keep reading I wasn’t sure that I wanted too. I didn’t feel invested enough to endure the drama of the different characters. But I’m wondering whether actually it was a fairly accurate depiction of a dysfunctional family torn apart by grief.
Alma Braithwaite’s boarding school was bombed in 1942, and she and some classmates were sent to the university under the care of Robert Gunner, a crippled maths lecturer. They meet again years later when Alma is a teacher at her old school, and memories of the past are stirred – and disturbed by the new headmistress who is changing the way things always have been.
This book was better than I expected. The cover and storyline made it look pretty dull, but it was actually charming, characters well realised and plot interesting enough. The dual time storyline worked well, with the parallels exposing secrets from both times that affect the other.