Mrs. Braithwaite, self-appointed queen of her English village, finds herself dethroned, despised, and dismissed following her husband’s selfish divorce petition. Never deterred, the threat of a family secret being revealed sets her hot-foot to London to find the only person she has left—her clever daughter Betty, who took work there at the first rumbles of war.
But when she arrives, Betty’s landlord, the timid Mr. Norris, informs her that Betty hasn’t been home in days--with the chaos of the bombs, there’s no telling what might have befallen her. Aghast, Mrs. Braithwaite sets her bullish determination to the task of finding her only daughter.
Storming into the London Blitz, Mrs. Braithwaite drags the reluctant Mr. Norris along as an unwitting sidekick as they piece together Betty’s unexpectedly chaotic life. As she is thrown into the midst of danger and death, Mrs. Braithwaite is forced to rethink her old-fashioned notions of status, class, and reputation, and to reconsider the question that’s been puzzling her since her world overturned: How do you measure the success of your life?
Jennifer grew up in the British countryside with a penchant for climbing trees and a wonderful grandmother who told her hilarious stories about the Second World War.
As an adult, she became a nonfiction book editor, first editing politics and economics at The Economist Books, and then moving on to the BBC, DK, and other publishers, editing books on health, cooking, wine, and history.
All this time, though, she harbored a longing to share her grandmother's stories about the war, and so she embarked on an MA in fiction at Johns Hopkins University. The novel that she wrote while there--The Chilbury Ladies' Choir--became a National Bestseller.
The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan, Jayne Entwistle (Narrator)
I had to give my brain a little adjustment in order to take in The Spies of Shilling Lane. The other three books I've read by this author seem more serious than this one which is odd since this one actually concerns spies, torture, and all sorts of betrayals. But once I got my mind around the fact that Mrs. Braithwaite and her accidental partner in danger and deception, Mr. Norris, were going to be mostly bumbling successes, I just went with the flow. These two are the stars of the show and even much higher ups will come to realize that fact, eventually.
Mrs. Braithwaite is a bull in a china closet kind of person while Mr. Norris is a meek mouse of a man but when they come together it's as if their differences turn them into almost unstoppable avengers. At first glance, they are not characters I'd enjoy at all, but in this case, they made me laugh, they actually are pretty good at laughing at themselves, and they were fun for me to be around when they are together. You see, Mrs. Braithwaite has to find and save her daughter, and sometimes Mr. Norris has to find and save Mrs. Braithwaite, and through it all she finds it in her heart to be a kinder person and he finds it in himself to do what a hero needs to do, more than once.
This is the coziest, most lighthearted, WW II historical fiction that I remember reading. For that reason, in the most dire and dangerous of situations, there will be long heart to heart talks that never would make sense in real life, in the settings where they take place. Lots of chatting and revisiting the past in the most unlikely situations. Lots of Mrs Braithwaite and Mr Norris trotting off to save the world (or at least, her daughter). Almost no sense that one needs to get a move on when death is staring one in the face. It's a go with the flow type of story, not for everyone, but I was entertained. I couldn't take the story seriously but it's the hint of comedy that made this work for me.
4 stars for a light, enjoyable mystery/ romance/character study. The blurb sets the premise of the story: "Mrs. Braithwaite, self-appointed queen of her English village, finds herself dethroned, despised, and dismissed following her husband’s selfish divorce petition. Never deterred, the threat of a family secret being revealed sets her hot-foot to London to find the only person she has left—her clever daughter Betty, who took work there at the first rumbles of war. " It is March, 1941 and Mrs. Braithwaite arrives in London only to find her daughter missing. She sets out to find her and recruits some unlikely help: Mr. Norris, Betty's landlord, a rather timid accountant who is appalled at this blustering harridan ordering him about. Some criminals who have it in for 5th column fascists. How Mrs. Braithwaite and Norris rescue Betty from the fascists and rekindle a mother daughter relationship made for a pleasant read. Fans of the author's previous book, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir will like this one also. There is very little violence and no murders, so cozy mystery fans will enjoy it. One quote : "But the conversation seemed to have tipped Mr. Norris into a thoughtful mode and he said rather philosophically, 'When people you care for die, something inside changes and you become a different person. Some say that you take on a part of them yourself, that everything you loved about them is enveloped within you, that you have a responsibility to keep them alive in your heart, whatever it takes." Thanks to Jennifer Ryan/Crown Publishing/Net Galley for sending me this book. #TheSpiesOfShillingLane #NetGalley
Thanks to Netgalley and Crown Publishing for a digital galley in exchange for an honest review.
Happy Pub Day
After reading The Chilbury Ladies Choir back in March, I knew I wanted to read the author's second WWII era novel that is being released in June 2019. Jennifer Ryan's Mrs. Braithwaite is another nominee for favorite character of 2019.
Ousted from her local WVS ( Women's Voluntary Services) branch and treated like a pariah since her husband divorced her and left her for another woman, Phyllis Braithwaite decides to take herself to London to visit her daughter, Betty. Although the two don't have the best relationship, Mrs Braithwaite feels she just needs to see her daughter. Imagine her surprise when she arrives at Betty's boarding house and learns Betty hasn't returned! Investing the reluctant aide of Betty'S landlord, Mr. Norris, Mrs. Braithwaite launches a desperate search. An adventure ensues as the two soon realize that Betty may have run into some shady characters.
I really loved this one because it was completely different than its predecessor and leaned a little more towards a fictional action adventure. Also, I am really enjoying the fact that authors like Jennifer Ryan are actually giving us characters that aren't solely in the 18-29 age bracket. If I have learned anything from growing up and watching Golden Girls and Murder She Wrote reruns, it's that women over 50 are not to be toyed with and they WILL get the answers. I just loved the way Mrs. Braithwaite handled everything, including poor Mr. Norris. I think even Winston Churchill would have stepped aside for Mrs. Braithwaite. As for my rating of 4 instead of a 5, I did feel that the book was about ten chapters too long and I was a little less enamored by Betty's sub story.
Publication Date 04/06/19 Goodreads Review 01/06/19
Not quite what I expected. Given the story is about a woman searching for her missing daughter during World War 2, I assumed going in this would be a heavy read but instead it had more of a cozy mystery vibe to it. So that threw me for a loop and probably had some effect on my enjoyment of the novel.
Mrs. Braithwaite has been pretty much ostracized since her divorce. Given it's the 1940s, attitudes are it's always the wife's fault when her husband leaves her. Too make matters worse, we have a war going on and her daughter, Betty, is missing. So Mrs. Braithwaite goes to London to look for her and meets Mr. Norris, Betty's landlord. She soon learns Betty hasn't been completely honest with her mom about her life in London. But I guess they are even because Mrs. Braithwaite has been hiding a secret or two from her daughter.
I actually liked the characters of Mrs. Braithwaite and Mr. Norris and thought they would be great working together in a cozy mystery series. I just don't think placing them in the middle of a war was the best use of them. By no means was this some slapstick comedy, but it's amazing to me how light in tone it felt given there were a few serious storylines. I guess I am just left feeling kinda empty because I believe this had the potential to be a really compelling story and instead for the most part it fell flat. So yes, this was a disappointing read for me but maybe other readers will connect better with the story.
Thank you to First to Read for the opportunity to read an advance digital copy! I was under no obligation to post a review and all views expressed are my honest opinion.
I was charmed and delighted by The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. Unfortunately, Ryan’s second effort was neither charming nor delightful. The characters are caricatures and the dialogue is cliché. Would you believe the leader of a gang of thugs would signal an attack by shouting out “charge?” Seriously, “my darling” this is but one example. Let’s not forget a prisoner accidentally falls out of a van as a means of escape. Spare me. If this was intended to be a melodramatic farce it succeeds but I’m not convinced. "Simple as that."
Mrs. Braithwaite was not initially my cup of tea. Brash, overbearing and opinionated, I could understand why the ladies of the WVS had pushed her out of her position as chairwoman. She comes to London to see her daughter, only to find her missing. Like a steamroller, she plows over everything and everyone in her path. Her main concern is how to measure success in one’s life. She’s actually comedic with her views on life. “You saw the European history books on Baxter’s shelf. And the philosophy!...Anyone that reads philosophy is bound to be suspicious.”
The book is a very lightweight historical romp. It’s silly, to be honest. As the title implies, there are spies. Also, lots of bad guys, thugs to be more exact. Not that all the criminals are bad, some are on the side of Jolly Old England. We’re meant to warm to Mrs. Braithwaite as she has epiphany after epiphany about the type of mother she was. I thought the strength of The Chilbury’s Ladies Choir was the depth of its characters. Here, they seemed more caricature.
Ryan does a decent job of of painting a picture of London during the Blitz. I was able to clearly picture the scenes. Transcription covers some of the same territory, spying on the English Fascist element and does a much better, more serious job of it.
Sorry to say I wasn’t that impressed by Ryan’s sophomore effort. This might appeal to those that want something more along the lines of a “cozy” story.
My thanks to netgalley and Crown Publishing for an advance copy of this book.
3 stars Thank you to Penguin First to Read and Crown for allowing me to read and review this ARC. Published June 4, 2019.
London, WWII, spies and a mother/daughter situation. Controlling, busybody Mother went in search of her daughter in London. Once there she finds out that she had been lied to and daughter Betty is missing. Betty is involved with M15 and is a spy. However Mom has been keeping a few secrets from Betty also.
Personally I did not connect very well with any of the characters - other than Mr Norris. He came across as a Don Knotts type character, which I did find refreshing.
Characters and story in this book are suitable for a cozy mystery series. There is some humor and some violence - however shaded. It is not a story that puts you on edge or forces you to turn pages, but more of a beach or cozy read. Don't expect a great spy novel or a great WWII story - this book is neither. It is not a heavy hitter. Even the serious and quasi-violent parts are more in the flavor of the Keystone Cops or Three Stooges.
When considering this novel think more meddling busybody than WWII spies.
Jennifer Ryan is the author of The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, one of my favorite reads of the past couple of years -- and she strikes gold yet again with her newest novel, The Spies of Shilling Lane. Here, we meet the intimidating Mrs. Braithwaite, pushed out of her leadership position with her village women's volunteer corps after one too many criticisms and commands aimed at the other women. Feeling utterly rejected, Mrs. Braithwaite decides to go visit her 21-year-old daughter Betty, who left the village to take up a clerical position in London, seeking excitement and a sense of purpose during wartime.
However, when Mrs. Braithwaite arrives at Betty's lodging house, she finds out that no one has seen her daughter in at least four days, and while no one else seems particularly panicked, Mrs. Braithwaite is sure that Betty must need rescuing. And nobody stands between Mrs. Braithwaite and her daughter! She sets out to find her daughter, coercing poor Mr. Norris to help her out, and uses her cyclone energy to push, demand, and bully people into giving her information.
It turns out that her motherly instincts were indeed correct and Betty is in trouble, of a sort that Mrs. Braithwaite could not have anticipated. And despite the tumultuous, strained relationship between mother and daughter, Mrs. Braithwaite charges into action to save Betty, only to end up needing saving in return.
What follows is a rollicking adventure, full of can-do spirit as well as intrigue and double-crossing. Mrs. Braithwaite is an absolute delight as a main character. How many books do we get to read that feature a 50-something-year-old proper Englishwoman as an action hero? She is just a force of nature, and will not let anyone stand in the way of her taking care of her daughter. Of course, Betty is far from helpless, as Mrs. Braithwaite learns, and between the two of them, we see a pair of strong women whose courage makes a difference in the British war effort.
The Spies of Shilling Lane has a light-hearted feel at times, as the action sequences aren't simply smooth Jame Bond maneuvers, but rather are full of errors and accidents and fumbling about. Mrs. Braithwaite and Mr. Norris are such an unlikely pair of secret agents, tracking down clues, picking locks, and befriending the local criminal element, all in pursuit of a rather nasty bunch of evil-doers. At the same time, the reflections on the mother-daughter relationship, the pressures of societal expectations, and the damage that can be done by overbearing family members are all well described and add resonance to the characters' feelings and reactions.
It's also incredibly harrowing and moving to see the air raids and the devastation that results, and I first found myself really loving Mrs. Braithwaite because of her interactions with an injured young woman whom she discovers as she's searching for Betty.
All in all, I'd say that The Spies of Shilling Lane is an excellent look at remarkable women during wartime. There are plenty of moments that made me smile, as well as scenes of tension and suspense. Mrs. Braithwaite is so delightful -- I'd love to read about more of her adventures!
If you enjoy women-centered historical fiction, definitely check this one out!
You guys know I read a lot of WWII. Spies and resistance and what not. So in my eyes, anything new on the market, or new to me, has to be very good, or explore something very different. Or else it won't stand up.
But this one, which I enjoyed very much, was different for a reason you wouldn't expect. It was no Alice Network, or Diamond Eye. But it was fun because it was so very quirky. You guys know I hate to give synopses, but the example writes itself. A woman who is not an insightful or reflective person by nature, is feeling lost, and so she suddenly and impulsively rides a bus during the war, to go visit her estranged daughter. Causing some level of brash and impossible behavior, wherever she lands. But the trip changes her, when she is exposed to all kinds of experiences and internal feelings. But in the midst of all this, she gets caught up in an inadvertent spy ring, in grave danger. Imagine she is the kind of lady who escapes danger either by clocking some would be terrorist with a handbag, or just going straight up to him or her and telling them they should be ashamed. Its reads a little in my mind like a late night Carol Burnett skit. I have never read a world war two book, where I was chuckling so much. But the espionage and war piece of the book, bumbling detectives, and she somehow wrangles a hapless partner in crime, well that is just the backdrop. What the book is about, is how someone, more than one person, who lived on the edge of life, finally learns to live, to love, to feel, to act, to be connected. To think about what is important and what matters. She is known to us thoughout the whole book as Mrs. Brightwaite, or something like that. We do not learn her name, or that of her hapless compatriot Mr. Norris, until perhaps the last pages. One imagines they do not even have them. They are just caricatures.
I think critics of this book, and there are many, dislike it because the characters aren't flushed out or depthful. But that is quite the point. Because the book is about the journey. About slowly growing and gaining depth through love. About slowly connecting, quickly acting, and learning how to do and be what is right and what matters. The journey is the story, and our characters take a long time to figure themselves out. Meanwhile, we have bumbling detectives and spies in the background. A whole lot of danger, a whole lot of new adventure/life, and a whole lot of love.
I happen to have adored the Chilbury Women's Choir, and that was an unforgettable 5 star read for me. I am very much looking forward to the Wedding Dress Sewing Circle, and there is a fourth book of hers, called the Kitchen Front. Which made it onto the list somewhere. However, a quick search will reveal another Jennifer Ryan author, who it seems is not this one. The other one seems to be a rancher cowboy romance artist, and its clear they are not one and the same. Our girl, is a WWII junkie like me, who writes about women who begin kind of thoughtless in the countryside of England, and through the experiences of war and life, learn to grow, love, and become. The Spies of Shilling Lane is just that.
1941 Mrs Braithwaite has been outed from her position in the WVS Women’s Voluntary Sevice group in Ashcombe Village England. She has been heavily influenced by her Aunt Augusta who raised her after the drowning deaths of her parents when she was a young child. After growing up, she did as was expected by marrying well and producing a daughter, Betty. But after her husband divorced her Mrs Braithwaite fell rapidly from grace with the WVS, replaced by M she didn’t know about her daughter and the work she is doing. Mrs Braithwaite co-opts the help of Mr Norris, Betty's landlord. Mrs Braithwaite is not the most likeable character. She is snobbish, bossy and judgemental, the type of person you don’t really want to meet in real life. But there is a lot more to Mrs Braithwaite. As the story goes along the reader begins to understand what shaped Mrs Braithwaite and also see her change over time and redefine what is most important in life. The same with Betty’s landlord, Mr Norris. There are some amusing scenes and also dangers that move the story forward. But after a while it seems to go on too long and become repetitive. Some of the incidents struck me as far fetched. If you don’t think about it too deeply there is more chance of enjoying this book. If you loved The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, and compare this book to that, I suspect you maybe disappointed. I read that one and loved it but went into this one with no expectations which is a good idea. Just read it and go along for the ride. All in all, a light, rollicking yarn with moments that felt silly and over the top. Despite my quibbles , I enjoyed it. Others may too. But some will be disappointed. It depends how you as a reader approach this book.
Meet Mrs. Braithwaite and Mr. Norris. She is a recovering village busybody and he is a mild-mannered landlord. When Mrs. B comes to London looking for her daughter Betty, she meets Mr. N at the house where Betty was renting a room. To solve the mystery of the missing daughter, the two join forces and forge ahead into danger with some comical consequences. I find it refreshing to have our heroine and hero be such unlikely rescuers while being of middle age and total rookies at the spy trade. If you are looking for a clean and somewhat humorous, yet informative view of the way the BUF infiltrated Great Britain during WW II, then this is your book.
Thank you to Crown Publishing and NetGalley for a digital ARC of this historical novel in exchange for an honest review.
Another great book by Jennifer Ryan. I so enjoyed the spy plot of the story but Mrs. Braithwaite and the timid Mr. Norris were the stars of this book set in London during WWII. Mrs. Braithwaite's growth from the insensitive and cold-hearted divorced woman in the start to how she reconnects with her daughter and melts that cold heart, learning how love changes everything, makes for a terrific book!
Mrs. Braithewaite is amusing, straightforward, somewhat status obsessed (thanks to the influence of a now-dead aunt), and a bit of a bulldozer in her personal relationships. When she's ousted from her position in her village, she rushes to London to see her daughter, Betty, to share a scandalous secret with her. Turns out, Betty's missing, and Mrs. Braithewaite enlists the aid of Betty's landlord, Mr. Norris, in finding Betty. They turn up a variety of unexpected things, including some scary men, a traitorous group, and Mrs. Braithewaite's compassion and kindness, both of which are stirred by her interactions with initially mousy Mr. Norris, and others they meet. It was nice seeing an older woman as the protagonist; and watching her gradually change her behaviour and make stronger connections with people than she ever has was fun. There were parts of the story that felt a wee bit unbelievable, but I just so enjoyed Mrs. Braithewaite's and Mr. Norris' conversations and detecting styles, and the growth both characters go through on their adventures.
Thanks to netgalley for the eArc for review. Unfortunately this book and I didn't get along. I was expecting a heavier read, something more hard-hitting, but I was left feeling like these characters lacked depth. The Characters came across very one dimensional and bland, and the arcs were so predictable.
There were parts here and there that I didn't mind, but a lot of the dialogue felt juvenile, or forced. Especially the way Betty's romance is explained. By 80% things felt wrapped up and then there's another "twist" if you will? But I was so bored by that point I just started skimming (which is a rarity for me). I'm sad to say this story just missed the mark for me. I wish it has been marketed more as a Sherlock Holmes wannabe mystery?
Ms. Ryan has a definite talent for writing about clandestine stores centered during World War Two. Her Mrs. Braithwaite and Mr. Norris turned out to be amateur sleuths who just happened to have the wherewithal in exposing a Nazi spy ring in London.
📚 Hello Book Friends! THE SPIES OF SHILLING LANE by Jennifer Ryan is my choice for the #PawsAndReadathon2022 hosted by @paws.and.read. The prompt for July is “Read a book with a mother/daughter relationship.” I could not have chosen a better book for this challenge. The relationship between Ms. Braithwaite and her daughter Betty had lots of ups and downs but ended on a very positive note. This WWII historical novel is filled with danger, action, courage, and love. I love the well-developed characters and how the author took us on a journey of self-discovery for many of them. It was such a pleasure to read this beautiful novel and recommend it to readers who appreciate older characters being heroes of the story.
This was funny, witty & cozy! A mystery & slight romance with bumbling & hilarious characters. I really enjoyed Mrs. Braithwaite. She is the kind of woman that is all tough, overbearing and self righteous but a total softy inside once you get past her jagged edges. I’ve known several women just like her. I enjoyed her quest for life’s measure of success. Her little realizations about motherhood and enlightenments about what is actually important. I loved her bossy but endearing personality. Having an energetic older heroine was quite fun and amusing. Of course I also loved Mr. Norris. I didn’t think he was going to have any impact as a character when first introduced but he was so fun and sweet. I liked him changing from timid to a little less timid and confident. If anyone deserves a happy ending it’s Mr. Norris
I wondered if maybe not having it be during the Blitz would have been better. It brought kind of a lightness and easy story during such a heavy time. Some parts described the blitz and its horrifying details but then would switch over to the light and easy. Sometimes I enjoyed that and other times I felt the wartime effects of London needed more attention. I go back and forth on that.
I love quotes so of course I’ll share some. Ha!
“Love is the most crucial thing we have. The measure of success is the amount that you love and are loved. The true value of life is not how you lived but how you loved. Giving love and receiving it if one was lucky enough is the very best legacy one could leave.”
“Death isn’t the part of life to fear the most. It is the fear of not living up to our full potential.”
“We only have one life, one chance for happiness. And sometimes we forget we can actually choose if we want joy or cynicism. Let’s pick Joy.” -Mrs. Braithwaite
“Isn’t it strange. You hold all of your stories to yourself. Then someone comes along and you can’t wait to tell them.” -Mr. Norris
I really wanted to like this book. I absolutely loved Jennifer Ryan's first book The Chilbury Ladies' Choir. That book was unique with many different voices. I loved the epistolary style, and there was enough drama to keep me interested.
The Spies of Shilling Lane fell flat for me. Throughout the whole book the writing lacked a richness that made me want to keep reading. I was confused about how the reader is supposed to feel about Mrs. Braithwaite at the beginning. Her development from a serious and overbearing woman to a kinder and emotionally open character was largely shown through cheesy and preachy dialogue. It was very cliche. It needed to be more balanced out with action. More "show" and less "tell."
To be fair, there were some points in the story that were exciting. The night in the bomb shelter when Mrs. Braithwaite helps to rescue Catherine. Most of Betty's chapters were interesting.
Honestly, there were several "eye roll moments" for me. For instance, at the end of the book when Mrs. Braithwaite returns to her hometown and gives a speech in front of the women of the town who were all upset with her for her overbearingness. After she finishes her speech, it says the women cheer. They actually cheer. And then everything is all good, and they bring her back into the fold. Rarely are relationships so easily mended with a simple five minute speech. This scene is a good example of the very rushed nature of the resolution. Everything "works out" just far too easily.
In short, I thought this was disappointing, especially after seeing what Jennifer Ryan is capable of writing.
This was one of those books that I just couldn't put down. It was so much fun to read! Mrs. Braithwaite, whose life has fallen apart around her in her small village of Ashcombe, England in 1941, decides to visit her daughter, Betty, in London only to find that she is missing. No one has seen her for days. Mrs. Braithwaite, never one to sit idly by, sets out to find her daughter, dragging Betty's timid landlord, Mr. Norris, with her. They get into one thrilling scrape after another in their search for information about Betty's disappearance.
I absolutely loved the characters. Mrs. Braithwaite is opinionated and overbearing, but all that bluster hides a very warm hearted woman. Mr. Norris is quiet, thoughtful, and shy. When Mrs. Braithwaite storms into his life, she drags him, literally and figuratively, out of his shell. It was such a delight following them on their adventures! They meet so many great characters along the way and may just find themselves in over their heads!
The book is a lighthearted, rollicking adventure, but Jennifer Ryan didn't shy away from deeper emotions, too. The horrific bombings in London during The Blitz, the loss of loved ones, the way divorced women were treated at the time, how family members deeply affect who we are and how we perceive ourselves and the world around us all played key parts in the story. I laughed, I cried, and I absolutely loved every minute of it! I'm really hoping for a sequel. I would love to see the characters on their next fun adventure.
Thanks to Crown Publishing for the review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Having read & enjoyed Jennifer Ryan's previous work, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, I was really looking forward to this title! As I started reading, I realized I didn't really remember too much of the CLC (other than liking it), but this does not affect the readability of this book at all - it can definitely be read as a stand-alone. (Although I rather hope it's the beginning of a new series, especially as the ending was left wide open for a sequel!)
For a book about a missing daughter during the Blitz of London during WWII, Jennifer Ryan managed to somehow keep the tone light enough to be thoroughly enjoyable without *making light* of the war. Mrs. Braithwaite's journey to self-reflection seemed totally genuine, as did Mr. Norris' own journey to changing his routine and standing up for himself and others. Not everyone who made a significant appearance had a fully fleshed out character, but in my opinion everyone that needed one had a backstory that fit into their actions and helped explain who they were as a character and how they related to other people.
Some of the "mystery" surrounding the disappearance of Mrs. Braithwaite's daughter, Betty, is probably not too difficult for the discerning reader to discover ... but I was so caught up in the joy of reading that I totally missed some of the smaller reveals (although I generally had my suspicions). Overall, I thought this book was completely lovely and will definitely be recommending it to bookstore customers and friends alike!
Mrs Braithwaite, what a hoot! She totally made the story for me. I started with the book but then found it on audio and I would suggest audio to anyone that reads this. It made the book. Enjoyed it a lot more listening. My 16 yr old was chuckling as we listened to it on our girls trip. Hilarious. I forgot that it seemed to be a more serious book from reading the cover. I hope they have a follow up with her and Lancelot.😆
Is there such a genre as cozy spy thriller? Like a cozy mystery but spies? Well, if not this is the inaugural book in the genre because that's exactly what this is. While the execution of that wasn't always perfect, I was entertained. Beyond that I enjoyed the character studies and the contemplation of how one life affects another. I didn't think this was quite as good as The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, the author's previous novel, but I'm definitely here for whatever Ms. Ryan publishes in the future.
The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir was my favorite book club read last year. It doesn’t bode well for The Spies of Shilling Lane that the first thing I say is how much I loved Jennifer Ryan’s previous book. Somehow the story of Mrs. Braithwaite going to London to search for her missing daughter during World War II just fell flat for me. I had a hard time believing both the plot developments and characters. The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir I could not put down. I had a hard time convincing myself to finish The Spies of Shilling Lane. I can only hope her next book will be better.
Mrs. Braithwaite is the bossy, haughty, uppity, annoying woman whose husband has divorced her causing her neighbors to disdain her even more and eventually oust her from her position as leader of their village WVS. When her daughter who has fled to London goes missing Mrs. Braithwaite takes off to London intending to find her. In London she blows into the home of staid Mr. Norris – her daughter’s landlord, upending his quiet and orderly life and, like a whirlwind, involves him in her quest to locate her missing daughter.
There is a tinge of humour throughout and who doesn’t need a bit of humour while bombs are falling all around you? Some of the book borders on the silly, but I can’t say it bothered me in the least because there is also adventure and mystery and changing of hearts.
This book falls between the author’s books (The Chilbury Ladies' Choir-2017 and The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle-2022) both of which provide a much more somber tone. The only common thread between these three books is that they are all set during WWII.
As for Mrs. Braithwaite and Mr. Norris I can’t tell you when I have enjoyed two fictional characters this much.
The story opens with Mrs. Braithwaite being demoted from the head of the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS). She is upset and stunned that she has been treated this way. She has recently divorced her husband and now finds her life in turmoil. She decides a visit to London is long overdue to visit with her only daughter Betty.
Upon arriving in London Mrs. Braithwaite meets Mr. Norris, Betty’s landlord, and learns that she has been missing for four days. She is shocked that no one has reached out to her to let her know of her daughter’s absence. She decides to take matters into her own hands and sets out to find her daughter, dragging with her a very apprehensive Mr. Norris.
The two main characters are polar opposites. Mrs. Braithwaite is cold, outspoken, and a force to be reckoned with. Mr. Norris is quiet, nervous, and prefers to keep to himself. These two characters were my favorite part of this book. Mrs. Braithwaite seemed to have no idea there was a war going on. When she dragged Mr. Norris out after dark to hunt for her daughter, with no regard for their personal safety, I knew these two would be a very interesting duo. They were an absolute delight together and it was a joy to see how they rubbed off on each other.
The story started off strong, but the further I got into it the crazier the story got and I just could not find the storyline plausible. That being said this book is a quirky, humorous read, with two unlikely character coming together as partners in crime.
*Thank you Crown for the opportunity to read and review this book via NetGalley for my honest opinion.
The publisher provided a free advance reviewing copy of the book, via Netgalley.
I enjoyed Ryan’s first novel, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, and expected this would be similar, since it’s also about women in World War II England. Well, yes, but it’s as if Ms. Ryan, having had some success with her first novel, decided to really let ‘er rip.
Everything about this novel is over the top. There is an espionage plot that is completely bananas, with twists and turns, B-movie bad guys, feats of derring-do in face of life-threatening dangers, and everybody dashing madly all over London and beyond.
As the book description says, Mrs. Braithwaite’s quest to find her daughter makes her rethink her life. That aspect of the book is almost sloppily sentimental at times, but given the over-the-top nature of the book as a whole, it didn’t bother me. In fact, I came to see this book in old-movie terms, as a sort of mashup of Mrs. Miniver and those films featuring Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple.
I read this book in one evening, tearing through the pages. I think that was the right approach for this crazy ride of a novel. I’d love to see somebody dramatize it if they could capture its throwback spirit.
After the heavy reading I’ve been doing lately, I needed something a bit lighter. A book set in London during the Blitz centered on a mother looking for her lost daughter, such as Jennifer Ryan’s The Spies of Shilling Lane, doesn’t seem like the most obvious choice. But from the first chapter, I knew I was going to be entertained. Mrs. Braithwaite, the primary protagonist of the novel, is the epitome of the British battle axe. She is so bombastic and domineering that she has just been kicked out of the Women’s Volunteer Service in her village. Her spirit isn’t always a detriment. It turns into an asset when she discovers that her daughter, Betty, has gone missing and no one else is willing or able to do anything about it. Mrs. Braithwaite doesn’t hesitate before she goes looking and badgering others into helping...
Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.