In 1939, Mary decides to volunteer for the war as a way to escape the restrictions of a wealthy family. She is assigned to become a teacher in a schooIn 1939, Mary decides to volunteer for the war as a way to escape the restrictions of a wealthy family. She is assigned to become a teacher in a school for children who had to stay in London because of bigotry among the country families who were taking in those escaping from the Blitz.
There she meets Tom, who administers the school, and they begin a romance. Tom is still nursing the wound created when his best friend Alistair surprised him by signing up for the war quickly. When Alistair comes home on a brief leave, Tom and Mary try to set him up with Mary's friend Hilda, but while Hilda likes Alistair, Alistair finds himself mostly preoccupied with the bleakness of the Front. The part of him that does admit hope for the future is more attracted to Mary (and she also has feelings for him.)
Cleave surprised me a bit when he lets the war run its inexorable course, interrupting relationships and battering the four young people in pretty vicious ways, along with the children at the sad little school that Mary tries so hard to keep alive. He creates vivid scenes of the horrors of the Blitz bombing, shellshock in soldiers and civilians alike, and the siege of Malta (this part was excellent, and a part of the WWII that is less familiar to most of us I think). Perhaps most effectively he captures the sad bigotry that home-front patriotism creates among the British population and the class distinctions that complicate life for everyone.
There has been a lot of WWII fiction lately. I would put this in the upper tier, but not at the tip top of that fiction. For me, Cleave is occasionally guilty of overwriting during critical moments, letting his characters ruminate a little too heavily on deep thoughts during some of the key moments instead of just portraying scenes that are powerful enough without the adornment. So a star off, but the plot and characters are solid. I enjoyed it and I think most other readers will as well. ...more
I had high hopes for this, and I think other readers might like it more, but it violates some of my pet peeves.
As the novel opens, Professor Jason DesI had high hopes for this, and I think other readers might like it more, but it violates some of my pet peeves.
As the novel opens, Professor Jason Dessen is enjoying family life, but also wondering just a little bit about the road not taken. He's a gifted scientist who took a small teaching job for the sake of family, forgoing research. He's mostly happy, but can't help wondering "what if?" All of that is thrown for a loop when he is kidnapped on a dark street just a few blocks from home.
What follows is a thriller about alternate realities. That's a concept that really interests me, but not here. First, the book leaves the reader in a state of not knowing at all what's happening during a meandering chase that goes on far too long. During this section it reads like a dime-a-dozen thriller. Once the real story line becomes apparent it gets better, but I still wanted a little more science fiction. For me, the bigger concept was more intriguing than the generic character tries to find his way home plot.
If you like thrillers more than SF, your mileage might vary!...more