A chance discovery inside a vintage typewriter case reveals the gripping story—and heartbreaking secrets—of two sisters on opposite sides of World War II in this captivating novel for readers of Lilac Girls and The Women in the Castle.
New York, present day: On a whim, photographer Juno Lambert buys the 1931 Underwood typewriter that once belonged to celebrated journalist Cordelia Capel. Within its case she discovers an unpublished novel, igniting a transatlantic journey to fill the gaps in the story of Cordelia and her sister’s loving yet tempestuous relationship.
England, 1936: Cordelia’s socialite sister, Irene, marries a German man from a powerful family who whisks her away to Berlin. Cordelia remains in England to pursue the writing career she cherishes, but in the male-dominated world of journalism, she can only get hired as a typist. The sisters exchange letters as politics begin to boil in Europe and tensions come to a head when Cordelia discovers Irene’s husband is a Nazi sympathizer. Does that make Irene one by proxy? With increasing desperation, Cordelia writes to Irene, seeking to understand her loyalties. But the sisters’ letters don’t tell the whole story. So Cordelia decides to fill in the blanks by sitting down with her Underwood and—finally—writing the truth.
When Juno discovers the trove of letters the two exchanged, a vivid portrait of Berlin in the devastating years during and after the war comes into focus. In this moving novel, Jane Thynne offers an intimate glimpse into a lesser known side of World War II.
Jane Thynne was born in Venezuela and educated in London. She graduated from Oxford University with a degree in English and joined the BBC as a journalist. She has also worked at The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Independent, as well as for numerous British magazines. She appears as a broadcaster on Radio 4 and Sky TV. She has also written WIDOWLAND under the pen name C.J. Carey.
Two sisters, Irene and Cordelia, find themselves on different political sides of WWII. Irene, married to a high ranking Nazi official, resides in Berlin while Cordelia moves to Paris to work for a journalist reporting on the Nazi's. Throughout the book, the two sisters periodically communicate through letters.
It starts out in 2016 with Juno perusing in a typewriter shop for a piece to use in her next photograph session. She finds Cordelia's typewriter from when she was a journalist and purchases it because she also finds a copy of an unpublished novel Cordelia wrote in the typewriter case. Juno goes home and reads Cordelia’s manuscript. Juno's modern day POV does not pick up again until 59% (on a Kindle).
The first half of the book revolves around the evolving politics of the Nazi party as seen through the eyes of Irene who attends many parties and political events with her Nazi husband. She struggles to accept her role as a wife according to the National Socialist Guide and feels like she must yield in order to survive. "If you're going to fit in, you'll need to accept the way Germans do things." Meanwhile, her sister, Cordelia, reports on fashion in Paris while working for a journalist and questions her sisters political allegiance and ethical behavior. Will the two sisters be able to reconcile after the war, or will their political views keep them divided? "How could a person be dragged screaming into a police care on the streets of a civilized city and not even turn heads?"
Historically: There are lot of prominent historical figures involved in the story such as Martha Dodd, Janet Flanner, Joseph Goebells, Reinhard Heydrich, Sylvia Beach, Arthur Koestler, and Kim Philby. There is dialogue regarding gender inequality; Cordelia has to first work as a secretary because women weren't seen to be fit as journalist working alongside men, while Irene had to follow the Nazi protocol for being a proper wife and running a household. Degenerate artists are also a considerable subject that are detailed through a character seen in the second half, Oskar Blum, a young artist who is a protege of Liebermann. "Jew lackeys like Liebermann have a polluting effect. Our culture is cleaner without their entartete Kunst."
Rating explained: The scenes and descriptions are over-extensive and drawn out which made it feel longer than it had to be. It was slow in some places and a little under halfway through I started to feel eager for the story to climb. (It doesn't truly reach climax until around 80% on a Kindle.) I enjoyed that the focus was before the war and what led up to it (1936/1937) and then the end of the war (1945/46) rather than what happened during the war. The ending was great and I really enjoyed it. I also loved the political climate that the author creates, and consider the topic of political influence dividing family relevant today. 3.6 rounded up to 4.
(Trigger- rape scene) Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Ballantine for an advanced copy. Opinions are my own.
More on this: Watch Kim Philby's speech on becoming a double agent. 3 minutes and 30 seconds. (In The Words I Never Wrote, Kim Philby ends up playing a big role in Cordelia’s life.)
In this day and age of computers, iPads and smart phones, it's hard to believe that it wasn't that long ago that typewriters were the vessels that brought our minds stories to life, some fictional accounts and others all too real. Modern day photographer, Juno Lambert, buys a 1931 Underwood typewriter and discovers an unpublished novel by celebrated author, Cordelia Capel in Jane Thynne's book, The Words I Never Wrote. Cordelia's story is the harrowing account of two sisters, Cordelia and Irene. Two sisters on opposite paths and opposite sides during WWII. Cordelia, a reporter in France, working for the British undercover while Irene marries a Nazi and moves to Germany. Thynne gives us complex characters and what could have been a simple good girl-bad girl scenario is thought-provoking and full of depth. Parts of this historical fiction account are chilling and heartbreaking as Cordelias and Irene's journey through WWII are a devastating portrait on the toll that WWII had on families. Can two sisters that are not only distanced by an ocean but also by an ideology find a path to redemption and salvation? Can Juno find the ending to their story before it's too late as Cordelia reflected when she says, "I'm fading like a book left out in sunlight, all words erasing gradually from the page." Lovers of historical fiction will find The Words I Never Wrote some of the best words ever read. I received an advance copy of this book from #NetGalley #TheWordsINeverWrote
My vow this year was to read less WWII books but here I start with one. Luckily for me it was excellent. I often have wondered what it was like to live in Germany during Hitler. Was there food? Was there deprivation? Was there fun and pride?
This is the story of two sisters and one marries a rich German industrialist before WWII and one moves to Paris to report on fashion. The sister in Germany, Irene, loves Berlin at first. There is a whirlwind of parties and life is great when you are rich. She becomes friends with the daughter of the American Ambassador, Martha Dodd, and keeps her painting up. Then the couple start meeting higher ranking Nazis and war starts getting closer and life is not as fun.
Meanwhile journalist, Cordelia, moves to England and continues reporting but expands her writing to other subjects. She wants her sister to be open about life in Germany but Irene is warned that her mail is being monitored and to be careful on what she says. She writes back that life is wonderful and Hitler is terrific. Cordelia is upset about her sister's "attitude" and Irene is frustrated by being put on the spot and eventually their correspondence ends.
In 2016, a young photographer buys an ancient Underwood typewriter and the beginning of a novel about the two sisters written by Cordelia. She is driven to discover what happened to them after the War ends. It's quite a moving story and shows you no one goes through a war unscathed. I appreciated learning more about the lives of every day Germans and what they endured. It's a story that's rarely told.
Thanks to Net Galley for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.
The Words I Never Wrote wasn't the novel I was expecting—in fact, it turned out to be much better than that. Yes, it had the hunt for a lost manuscript that I'd anticipated, but it also had relationships between characters and ethical conundrums that took it beyond a simple "fun read."
As one other reviewer noted, The Words I Never Wrote continue to surprise until the very end. At points, I'd think I'd gotten the basic shape of the novel—then my assumptions would be overturned by something unexpected.
At the heart of the book lies the story of two sisters living through World War II. One finds herself in France, then Germany, beginning as a fashion reported and winding up as a translator for the occupying forces at the war's end. The other marries a wealthy German before the start of the war, renounces her British citizenship and moves to Germany, where her life increasingly becomes a round of one social event after another with the Nazi hierarchy, while her husband profits from the increasing German militarization.
Thyme gives us characters who are complex. Their choices are unexpected, but not illogical. She takes what could have been simple good sister-bad sister narrative and creates something much more engaging.
The storyline takes two paths, one present, one past. I loved the past thread in which two intelligent sisters find themselves on opposite sides during World War II. It captivated me. The contrast of Cordelia and Irene’s paths during the brutality of Hitler’s rise in power is vividly imagined by the author and fascinating. The heavy burdens of having to stay silent, hide allegiances, feeling alone and having to keep secrets for the sake of survival touched my heart.
The sisters are fictional, but the author inserts supporting historical characters such as the high spirited Martha Dodd, the daughter of the US ambassador to Germany, who led an unconventional and storied life and Kim Philby who at 22 was recruited into the British Intelligence, becoming one of their most successful double agents. The little touches, the author’s eloquent prose throughout the story including beautifully written letters between Cordelia and her sister Irene were so well done, capturing my attention in the early pages when 96-year old Cordelia reflects on her storied life: "I’m fading like a book left out in sunlight, all words erasing gradually from the page.” Thanks to Random House-Ballantine for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Ambitious, successful story from a feminine viewpoint of life in Paris/Berlin in 1930's leading up to Spanish Civil War and Hitler's hold over Germany leading to WWII. There are two main characters, sisters who had been brought up gently in England, allowing for one to be married off to a German industrialist and one to learn journalism in Paris.
This division of sisters results in a global look from all sides and viewpoints as their lives and experiences are revealed in a found manuscript in a typewriter case modern day. Philby figures in this story not surprisingly. This author's husband was one of my favorite authors (Philip Kerr) and it is clear that their home was filled with World War II knowledge. She has written another series featuring a female during this period, but this stand alone book is one outstanding accomplishment.
I have to admit that I read the book for a while at first and could not get into it. I think it has something to do with feminine viewpoint for me. Not sure. I gave it a break and then came back to the book and started over believing this effort would be rewarded. This is a good read!
The one thing I really liked about this book was how everything intertwined well. All the questions were answered and the result is a well-written, well-plotted satisfying story with strong and clear characters. I liked all the characters and I found myself rooting for them all, well except, I was happy when the Nazis didn't win the war which I already knew they would! :) I don't read a lot of historical books situated during WWII for the simple fact that the market is saturated, and yes, it's a great time and place to relive, but I like to pick and choose when I do read in this period. I am glad that I picked up The Words I Never Wrote. It was worth my time.
This book takes place during WWII. It is the story of two sisters separated by war and by their decisions. Irene meets Ernst Weissmuller, a German industrialist, at her art exhibit. Ernst purchased one of her paintings and she fell in love with him. They married and she moved to Germany to start her new life. But at the dawn of WWII, Irene soon discovers that her decision to marry Ernst will cost her much. Cordelia, her sister, does not understand Irene’s decision to remain in Germany and support her husband while the Nazis’ atrocities increase every day.
Fast forward to 2016, Juno is recovering slowly from her break-up with her long-time life partner and the loss of a baby. In an attempt to reinvent herself, she purchases a 1931 Underwood Portable Typewriter which was once owned by Cordelia. Inside the case, she finds a manuscript written by Cordelia telling her story as well as Irene’s. The manuscript is unfortunately incomplete. Juno embarks on a journey to find out what happened to the two sisters.
This is a gorgeous book with many raw moments. It is a story of love, betrayal, sacrifice, and forgiveness. A wonderful book for all history lovers.
🙋🏼♀️ Thank you Ballantine Books and Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a final copy of this exhilarating novel. 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗪𝗼𝗿𝗱𝘀 𝗜 𝗡𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝗪𝗿𝗼𝘁𝗲 by Jane Thynne will be available at your favourite bookstore on January 21, 2020.
3.5 stars, but disappointing enough to not round up to 4.
This could have been such a good story; however, the beginning 100+ pages had very little story and a lot of flowery descriptions of gardens, buildings, and clothes. If you like that sort of thing, then this is the book for you. Personally, I prefer an actual story.
The book is an historical fiction with a dual timeline and I don't understand why. The real story belongs to two sisters (Irene and Cordelia) during WW2. The other story is about a present-day woman (Juno) who finds a half-finished novel/memoir written by Cordelia and travels to Germany to try to figure out what happened to the sisters. Juno is really unnecessary. I think the book would have been much stronger had the author just told the story of the sisters.
My final disappointment was the author spending the first 100+ pages with unnecessary description and then rushing the ending by bringing in a new character who had all the answers.
As I said, the book would have been much stronger and more emotive if the author had just told the story of the sisters throughout the war and the aftermath. For me, Juno kept pulling me out of the real story.
It took me reading over 60% of this novel until I was truly hooked. A current day journalist buys a vintage Underwood typewriter with a half finished manuscript. The story is of two sisters starting in the early 1930’s. One sister marries a German Industrialist and moves to Berlin. The other is a reporter in France.
What I liked about this novel was the focus on German life pre WWII. The build up to war and the in depth analysis of the customs and beliefs of the German people during that period.
For lovers of dual time and WWII historical fiction-stick with this one and you will be rewarded.
Thank you NetGalley for this novel. My first book by this author, but I love her style and will be looking for more novels. 2016-An antique typewrite from 1939 is bought by Juno. She discovers an unfinished manuscript in the contents. She starts to investigate and finds herself in Berlin and her journey begins to unravel the past. She discovers the story is about two sisters. One of whom, Irene married a German and moves to Germany. Cordelia works for a newspaper and is sent to France. As the Nazis take over, the sisters find they do not agree over politics, and communication stops. Even though the sisters are very different the find a way to work against the Nazis. Can Juno find out what happened to the sisters fate? Do the sisters reconcile their relationship? I love that it mentioned the bookshop Shakespeare and Co, as I just finished a book about that bookshop. This novel explores loss, betrayal, sacrifice, relationships, and forgiveness. #janethynne, #thewordsineverwrote, #ballantinebooks, #bookreview, #bookstagram, #booksconnectus, #stamperlady50
Me ha gustado muchísimo esta historia ambientada a medio camino entre el presente y los años más terribles de la 2GM. Hay varios plot twists a lo largo de la historia que me han dejado sorprendida y no me había visto venir. Preciosa y difícil la relación entre las dos hermanas protagonistas. Me ha gustado especialmente la doble cara de personajes aparentemente "buenos" y nada planos en su caracterización. Muy muy recomendable.
Jane Thynne brings us an epistolary novel set in London and Berlin in the late 1930s in the runup to WWII.
In the present, Juno Lambert, a photographer working her way through divorce, comes across an ancient Underwood typewriter. The typewriter shop owner tells her it was once the property of Cordelia Capel, a journalist who covered fashion in Paris and then the aftermath of WWII. In the case for the typewriter is a partially-finished manuscript written by Cordelia. Juno purchases the typewriter. Her editor has asked her to go on assignment to Berlin, and she accepts with a double purpose in mind: to perform this assignment, and find out all she can about the Capels to complete the story the manuscript began.
In the 1930s, as the decade comes to an end, the Capel sisters Irene and Cordelia are about to head their separate ways. Close for their entire lives, this brings along a bit of angst, especially as Irene is marrying a German industrialist, who has also joined the Nazi party in order to expand his business. Cordelia, a bit later, heads to Paris to act as the secretary to the news bureau chief there, and eventually begins writing columns about her coverage of fashion there.
At first, the sisters write one another often, detailing the happenings around them - there are many historical people named in the novel, from fashion designers, writers, painters, and assorted other cultural icons in France on Cordelia's side to Nazi leaders in Germany on Irene's.
As the storms of war ramp up, Cordelia begs Irene to leave Germany and head home to London with her. Irene refuses, and after being warned by Mary Dodd (daughter of the US Ambassador) as well as a handsome Nazi officer (Abel Hoffman) to watch what she says and writes, and knowing that she will never be able to leave without her passport (now locked in a safe to which she does not know the combination), decides to restrict her letter to Cordelia to only the social goings-on she is party to as the wife of a wealthy and influential industrialist. She tells herself, however, to memorize the things she is seeing and hearing.
Cordelia, exasperated with Irene, tells her that the letter she is writing now will be her last, since Irene has apparently chosen the Germans over her family. Cordelia falls in love with her station chief, who decides to go to Spain, where a civil war is underway. She pleads with him not to go, but eventually she returns to London, alone. There, she works with British intelligence to prepare people to act as spies. She works with Kim Philby, the notorious double agent who penetrated the intelligence service.
Back in Germany, Irene makes a fateful decision to work with resistance fighters. Not in the field, but by bringing them materials they can use to fake papers, work orders, and so forth. Eventually, she also begins working in a hospital, to treat Germans injured in the war.
Thynne does a wonderful job of describing the environments in which the two sisters lived, but not to the point of it affecting the story negatively. The bustling of both Paris and Berlin prior to the war is depicted, as is the effect of war on the Germans as WWII grinds down on the country with the advances of both US and Russian troops.
The story is strongest when it is focused on Cordelia and Irene and the milieus in which they find themselves. Juno is certainly the weakest link, and when the book reached the last quarter, it was all Juno and what she had been able to discover, with her egocentric ex making an unwelcome appearance - an unneeded push to the story, as he served no purpose other than to reinforce to Juno that she was doing the right thing.
I won't go into the very end so as not to spoil it. I will say this is one of the best books I've read this year so far, and very well written. It is dramatic without being melodramatic, romantic without being cliche, and descriptive without being flowery.
4 out of 5 stars.
Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for the advance copy.
Wow! A story of two sisters on opposing sides during WWII. Cordelia and Irene were the best of friends growing up in England. When Irene falls for a German businessman, distance and a world on the verge of war separate them not only physically but emotionally. Cordelia finds herself writing fashion notes in Paris and Irene, having married the German becomes somewhat of a stepford wife in Berlin.
At first the sisters correspond frequently but as war draws nearer...it is quite apparent that they are experiencing very different things on very different sides. Irene eventually makes the difficult decision to shut off her emotions in her correspondence with her sister, highlighting on the exciting things not what she’s really seeing and going through. Eventually, after begging her sister to come back home where it’s safe and being told no...their contact stops and they ride out the war extremely differently.
Flash forward to 2016, when Juno...whose own life is a bit is at a bit of a crossroads, purchases an old typewriter that once belonged to Cordelia. With it comes a partial manuscript and the insatiable need to learn more about these sisters. She travels to Berlin and piece by piece is able to unearth the truth, lies and secrets that these sisters carried with them until each of their passing.
This book starts off a bit slow but as you go on this journey, it’s intensity build. Whether or not the author intentionally meant to do this or not, I felt it only mirrored how the war itself played out...it started out slowly and then became more and more intense as time passed. What I love most about this book is the attention to detail and the descriptive way in which it was written. Ms. Thynne paints a beautiful picture with this story. As I read, I felt as though I had a movie playing in my mind and her use of words allowed me to picture absolutely everything!
The Words I Never Wrote was an excellent historical fiction read! I actually finished it at 5am. And I love sleep! I am always interested to know how every day people live through a war. Cordelia and Irene may have chosen different paths but they were equally intriguing. They were never perfect but simply human. Juno added a great touch- explaining the rest of the story as well as showing us Berlin in the current day. It was interesting to find out some of the characters were based on real people. I found myself doing my own research when I finished. Overall, beautifully written.
Truly a beautiful novel seamlessly combining a modern time with the past. Intriguing from the very start! I was so invested in this whole story that I didn’t want it to come to a close! From the twist to the mixing with the modern times this historical fiction was beautiful. My heart was racing at times for the WWII characters Irene and Cordelia, other times my heart broke for them. One of my favorite WWII books lately! Definitely a must read for historical fiction fans!
The Words I Never Wrote is a good example of strong historical fiction. It is atmospheric with memorable characters. It uses two time periods, one during WWII and one in present day. The plot resonates around two sisters caught on opposite sides of the war as one pleads with the other to escape the surmounting totalitarian regime in Germany. In present day a young woman comes upon their story. Determined to discover its ending, she travels to Germany seeking its conclusion. Although the main characters are fiction, real-life characters are interwoven into the WWII timeline. I will be sure to pick up more of Jane Thynne's books.
This is a very nice, well written, and enjoyable book. In dual timelines, current day photographer Juno Lambert purchases an old Underwood Portable typewriter and finds within it a manuscript, or half of a manuscript. It tells the story of two British sisters, Irene and Cordelia, and their separate paths during WWII.
Before the beginning of the war, Irene marries a German industrialist and moves from England to Germany to become his wife. As war breaks out, her husband’s associations with the Nazi party and his work have a profound effect on Irene. Her sister Cordelia moves to Paris to become a fashion journalist. Throughout the war, her involvement becomes much more serious and clandestine. And she falls in love with a resistance fighter.
As Juno comes to the end of the manuscript, she realizes it is not complete and her curiosity of what happens with the sisters becomes an obsession. Having the opportunity to travel to Berlin for a photojournalist assignment, Juno tries to discover what happened during the war and after to Irene and Cordelia.
I enjoyed this story very much, and I would like to thank NetGalley, Jane Thynne, and Ballantine Books for the opportunity to read and review this book.
This was a very enjoyable novel about 2 sisters from 1936 -1945 as Europe was leading up to war. One sister had just married a German industrialist and moved to Berlin, and the other one is a journalist who gets sent to Paris. A very interesting WWII novel.
This is, in many ways, typical Holocaust Lite fare, yet another modern attempt to twist and lighten the truth of the awful years of the Third Reich with romance and happy Hallmark endings in the likes of the dreadful Tattooist of Auschwitz or ever worse, The Alice Network. I guess these books are written to attract an audience with no real knowledge of the past and are peppered with anachronistic dialogue and jarring cameo appearances of such luminaries as Churchill or Roosevelt to lend them credibility and gravitas. This, no exception, is the tale of two aristocratic English sisters, separated in 1936 when Irene, the older sister, marries a Nazi loving German industrialist and goes to live in Berlin with her husband. Cordelia, the younger sibling becomes a fashion journalist in Paris and finds love with a different kind of man, who serves bravely in the Spanish Civil War and later as a member of the burgeoning SOE, the precursor to MI5. The whole thing is all very trite and Thynne also fills the story with real life characters like Kim Philby and Josef Goebbels, in order to make it more compelling and authentic. However, one thing that is done well is the extensive research the author has done on the period which is shown in this novel and in her previous Black Rose series. All in all, readable but not that believeable.
I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of this book and I loved it! First of all, I'm just a sucker for vintage typewriters so any story that starts with a typewriter is good for me! But this is a fascinating and beautifully written story about two sisters who paths diverge due to the choices they make during wartime. Deeply felt and written with nuance and great emotional depth, it's one of the best stories I've read about women's lives and the choices they made during wartime.
4.5 Thank you to NetGalley for giving me an advanced copy of Jane Thynne’s newest book. I loved all the books in the Clara Vine books. Surprisingly, the earlier books in the series were not in the library so I bought them all. This is a stand alone book - not a new Clara Vine novel but it is has similarities - set in WW2, features a nazi housewife, and has spies. I read this book in one weekend while down with a cold and it kept me interested with its twists and turns. I also learned more about what happened to German women and children after the Russians came . I will recommended it to my friends who enjoy historical fiction set in ww2.
3.5. Begins in England, Pre WWII Two sisters, incredibly close, follow two very different paths. One marries a German who becomes closely connected to all the Nazi highest officials; one becomes a journalist. Their relationship involves great alienation and reconnections. Interesting but I never felt compelled.
Set during the tumultuous era encompassing WWII, The Words I Never Wrote is an interesting take on how easily we can misunderstand those we love.
Our story begins with an elderly journalist receiving yet another award. Cordelia Capel already has a Pulitzer, has previously been honored with the White House Correspondents Association Award and this latest trophy will be just one more piece of memorabilia gathering dust on her overcrowded shelves. It is not the keepsake Cordelia wants. “If I have to have a memento as I sit here in my apartment in the summer of my ninety-sixth year,” she tells us, “I would choose the snow globe from the nursery at Birnham Park.”
That snowglobe had been unique. Custom made in London, it depicted Cordelia’s childhood home in England – the aforementioned Birnham Park – in perfect detail, including the two little girls who lived there. Cordelia and her older sister Irene are reproduced perfectly within the glass orb, playing on the lavish lawn of their miniaturized home. Theirs was a happy childhood, with the sisters being boon companions, who grew up to be accomplished, elegant, beautiful young women. All is bliss till 1936, when Irene gets engaged to Ernst Weissmuller, a German industrialist who plans to take her to Germany after the honeymoon. At the wedding, while wondering what to do with her own future, Cordelia impetuously agrees to work for a friend of her father’s as a secretary for the Paris office of his newspaper. As if she had sensed this would be in Cordelia’s future, Irene’s surprise gift to her sister, given as she leaves for her honeymoon, is an Underwood Portable typewriter.
In New York City in 2016, Juno Lambert is looking for the perfect prop for the portrait she is doing of an actress in a Tennessee Williams play. She plans to capture a 1940s feel in the picture, and decides to add a vintage typewriter to the paraphernalia she is including in the shot. She purchases an Underwood Portable typewriter that comes with a bonus; a 150 page story about two sisters separated by politics during WWII, written by the elderly owner right before she died.
In 2016, Juno Lambert, recovering from a break-up and the loss of a pregnancy, purchases an antique Underwood typewriter, which contains an unreleased manuscript by a famous journalist. In it, she discovers the story of two women - Cordelia Capel, a young woman trying to find her way through a very man-centric world, and her sister Irene, who marries a German industrialist just as Hitler is coming to power.
Told in two timelines and in three voices, The Words I Never Wrote follows Cordelia as she travels to Paris, first as a secretary at a newspaper office and then as a fashion journalist, Irene as she settles into her new married life in Germany, hob-knobbing with the upper echelons of the Nazi party and trying to reconcile her glamorous lifestyle with the bitter truth of Hitler's reign and the reality that it could turn against her at any moment, and finally, Juno as she becomes enthralled by the sisters' story and their separation.
Jane Thynne mostly skips the war itself, aside from a few relevant details, concentrating instead on Hitler's rise to power and the aftermath. Most of the book covers the sisters, so I was curious more than halfway through to see where Juno was going to fit back in. In that, we see the sweet story of a young woman reclaiming her own life after adversity.
The Words I Never Wrote also includes several historical figures - not just the usual Nazi suspects, but the likes of Kim Philby (the Cambridge Five), Martha Dodd and Janet Flanner.
What I Loved: Jane Thynne has drawn very real, very nuanced characters and given them an emotional edge that is rare. She covers events we don't usually hear about (the rise of the Nazi party and the reality of life in Germany after the war) with grace, while not shying away from the brutal reality, bringing it all into focus with the alternate lives of the two sisters and the lengths they would go to to protect each other.
What I Didn't Love: Some of the time jumps could be a little jarring.
Conclusion: A different take on the WWII historical, The Words I Never Wrote is a great addition to an overstuffed genre, filled with heartbreak, sacrifice, and redemption. I am a definite fan!
The Words I Never Wrote Jane Thynne Ballantine Books, Jan 2020 380 pages Historical Fiction, WWII Borrowed from Derry Public Library ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The cover is interesting with the misty background of a city then the woman in a tailored suit looking pensive. In front of that is the old typewriter with the title typed on the paper and there is an overlay of old water-stained paper. You know you’re going to be looking into the past. I had seen this book written up on one of my feeds several days before I was at the library and it rang a bell in my head. Still intriguing. Yes!
And the decision paid off. I left this for the last book to read out of my library stash for what reason, I really don’t know. But what a great book.
The two sisters in the book are situated on different sides of WWII because one is still at home in England and the other has married a German industrialist and moved to Berlin. Irene had fallen in love with Ernst and hadn’t given a thought to what it would mean in a more worldly sense. The sisters weren’t able to keep up their correspondence for very long because Irene couldn’t write what she really thought and what she was really doing after awhile. She knew her mail was being read and she was being followed. Cordelia thought her sister was becoming a good little Nazi wife since she was socializing on the highest level of society and military and government. She couldn’t write about the other side of her life, the part that was taking place in the shadows. The part she did because it’s what her sister would expect her to do.
Cordelia goes about her life. Mourning the man she had met and loved when she was living in Paris for several years who had been killed by the Germans. Another strike against her sister. The sisters don’t speak or see each other until the British and their allies are in control of Berlin and debriefing the citizens. Irene is still there, and Cordelia is among the debriefers. Finally, they get to share their stories and secrets.
Juno is a correspondent who bought an old typewriter with a case. In that case was a partial manuscript for a novel, Cordelia’s novel. She’s curious enough to want to know what is missing, so she travels to Berlin to pick up where the manuscript stops in mid-sentence to find out what secrets are left.
Jane Thynne has crafted heartbreaking scenes and heart-touching scenes as she created this sometimes brutal, sometimes lovely story. You got to know characters on both sides of the battle and you liked and hated them on both sides. Why should we consider Jews good just because they were Jews when they made money by turning in other Jews to the Nazis, but a Nazi officer was bad even though he looked the other way when a woman was hiding a Jew in her house rather than report him as was his job? Jews weren’t all good, and Germans weren’t all bad. They were all people caught up in a horrible situation that most of them had no control over. Some of them made good decisions and some made bad decisions. Some lived and some died. Ms. Thynne brings all this to vivid life. She is an author I would like to read more of. Highly recommended.
I've read so many books that took place during WWII, it was a pleasure to read "The Words I Never Wrote" by Jane Thynne as the novel takes place and tells the reader a story of the years prior to the great war.
During a hot summer day, Juno Lambert, a photographer, and occasional writer, finds herself in an antique shop where she comes across an old 1931 Underwood typewriter that once belonged to a journalist Cordelia Capel. To her amusement, the old typewriter came with a bonus, a manuscript/biography hidden in its case. The script has lured Juno into its pages with an appealing story of two sisters who fought the same great war, from the opposite sides.
Regrettably, the sisters' relationship is torn apart by the horrific war. Newly married Irene joined her German husband in the heart of Germany - Berlin, at the same time as her younger sister Cordelia, a journalist in training was sent to France. During the years prior to WWII sisters often exchange letters that contain their political views and social life in pre-war Berlin and Paris. As the warning of the upcoming war becomes real, young Cordelia learns that Irene's husband is a Nazi sympathizer and urged her sister to leave her husband's side and return home before it's too late. With no explanation, Irene chooses not to follow Cordelia's pleas, and in result sisters' communications stops, and their lives go into different directions.
The biography is cut short, leaving Juno yearning for more. After throw research, she finds very little on Irene and Cordelia's lives during and after the war. Why Cordelia has not set her foot in Europe after 1945? Has Irene survived the war? Has Cordelia ever forgiven her sister for betraying their beliefs and homecourty? Juno packs her bags and boards the plane to the place that might hold answers to all her questions - Berlin.
I was immersed in the story of the triumph of the human spirit, and courage, as well as the strength and perseverance of strong women. Thank you NetGalley and Ballantine Books publishers for a free and advanced copy of this wonderful novel.