Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Their Finest Hour and a Half” as Want to Read:
Their Finest Hour and a Half
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Their Finest Hour and a Half

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  1,244 ratings  ·  202 reviews
It's 1940. In a small advertising agency in Soho, London, Catrin Cole writes snappy lines for Vida Elastic and So-Bee-Fee gravy browning. But the nation is in peril, all skills are transferable and there's a place in the war effort for those who have a knack with words.

Catrin is conscripted into the world of propaganda films. After a short spell promoting the joy of swedes
Hardcover, 415 pages
Published 2009 by Doubleday
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Their Finest Hour and a Half, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Lissa Evans The book was originally published as 'Their Finest Hour and a Half', but was then made into a film called, simply, 'Their Finest.' A re-issue of the…moreThe book was originally published as 'Their Finest Hour and a Half', but was then made into a film called, simply, 'Their Finest.' A re-issue of the original book was given the same title as the film.(less)
Barbetta Moffatt
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
Violet wells
Their Finest Hour is about the making of a movie during the blitz. Initially I was struck by the lovely subtle wit of the voice of this. Such a smooth gliding surface to her prose like a layer of freshly fallen snow. Evans did a fine job of setting up the novel, evoking the atmosphere and telling little details of the times really well. The research seamlessly stitched into the fabric and adding a great deal of vitality of colour. However it began to become apparent that this novel is too long. ...more
Oct 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars.

Set in England during World War II, this is a character driven story about the making of a movie under the most stressful of circumstances. Writers, actors, directors, crew and their accompanying egos all muddle in together to tell the story of two sisters who took part in the Dunkirk evacuation. Equal parts hilarity and pathos ensue.

I loved most of the characters, with the exception of Ambrose. I spent a good part of the book wishing a bomb would land on him. I see what you did there
Roger Brunyate
May 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, ww2, comedy-sorta
Dunkirk at the Odeon

I so loved Lissa Evans' recent novel Crooked Heart, about a precocious boy and crafty woman making common cause in the London Blitz, that I immediately ordered this earlier book, set in the same period. Besides, I was tickled by the title and its cheeky rewriting of Churchill's famous phrase about the Battle of Britain heroes. Only it is not so cheeky as it sounds, for Evans' subject is the making of a patriotic movie about Dunkirk, and ninety minutes in those days was the st
Nov 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book is just about perfect: expertly written in a style reminiscent of the literary fashions of the 1940s; full of wonderful characters that begin as stereotypes and take on flesh in an extraordinary way; expertly plotted and paced, with each development and surprise perfectly timed; unsentimental yet full of feeling; painstakingly researched; and on top of all that, it tells an absolutely fascinating story.

That story is set in 1940-41 and tells of the making of a British propaganda film ab
Robert Ronsson
Jun 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes you read simply for the joy of being transported to a different time and place in the company of easy-to-get-on-with characters. If the book is amusing so much the better. On this basis Their Finest Hour and a Half ticks all the boxes. The insufferably self-absorbed actor is a special delight.
The writing never over-reaches itself and is therefore satisfying and easily digestible - a chicken-soup of a book.
A great holiday read that contains, according to my 92 year old Mum, the most rea
Elizabeth Buchan
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Gloriously funny and touching in places, it shines a comic light on a little thought about corner of the war effort.
Jamie Collins
4.5 stars, really good! This is a novel about the making of a film in London during the worst of the Blitz, in 1940-41. Bombs are falling almost nightly, and every morning people worry about anyone who’s late to work. Despite that the book is very funny, as well as being poignant, and the setting feels absolutely vivid.

The Ministry of Information has commissioned a movie meant to boost the morale of the British people and to enlist the sympathy of filmgoers in the United States. The writers take
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: x2017-read, auth-f
3.5-4 stars. Initial thoughts: Interesting to learn about how early propaganda films in England were handled, and while the misogyny and racism of the time was not surprising. I liked a couple of the characters, though I found myself very irritated by how things worked out for Ambrose. I liked Catrin (or however her name was spelled) and her unwillingness to lie in her screenplays, and how she learned the ropes.
Jan 04, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: borrowed
London. 1940. There’s a war on, and it doesn’t look like being over any time soon. That’s why the Ministry of Information is looking to make a film. A film to boost morale, and maybe draw the USA a little closer to what is going on in Europe. Propaganda? Well why not?!

It’s not going to be easy, with so many of the country’s finest unavailable. But it makes a wonderful story.

It is told through four characters, on separate paths that will, of course, converge.

First there’s Catrin Cole. She comes f
Oct 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lissa Evans won my heart with Crooked Heart and this American release of her earlier WWII novel has a solid place on the shelf as well. Evans has a gift for delivering stories that bring familiar periods to life in new ways. In THEIR FINEST, we are invited into the lives of the mismatched crew involved in the making of a patriotic film in the crucial years of 1940-41. There's the over-the-hill, self-obsessed former leading man who hasn't yet realized he is no longer matinee idol material, a youn ...more
Nicola Mcfall
This book didn't really live up my expectations after reading the blurb on the cover. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't as gripping as I had hoped it would be. I didn't fall in love with any of the characters (unless we are counting the dog which I grew fond of! lol!) so I wasn't breaking my neck to keep lifting the book to see what had happened to them. It's strange because the stories should have been something I enjoyed but there was something missing that I just cannot put my finger on! I suspe ...more
Dec 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anglophiles who enjoy reading about WWII life on the homefront
Recommended to Susann by: Kate S.
So grateful that Kate S. recommended this and that a friend was able to bring me a copy from her recent London trip. Last I checked, this terrific novel is inexplicably still unavailable in the U.S.

I'm having trouble coming up with anything beyond the platitudinous: "rich characters"; "highly readable"; "well-researched"; "I laughed; I cried." But it's all true and I look forward to re-reading this someday (not something I often say about adult novels).
Apr 03, 2016 marked it as abandoned
I read about half of this, and it just seems to be spinning its wheels and not getting anywhere much. It's not terrible, just not particularly good, despite the occasional funny moments, and I'd rather be reading something else.
Lately, I’ve been gravitating to WWII novels and I find myself really enjoying them. This came at the perfect time.

It’s interesting to read what people experienced during wartime. I find myself amazed at how strong and resilient people were. I think it’s human nature to deal with what is at hand, and break down later, if that is indeed what a person ends up doing. But, while many individuals are emotionally and/or physically scarred by war, they also often become more resilient if they are able
Melinda Elizabeth
Mar 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Their Finest Hour and a Half, set in the midst of the Blitz in WWII, follows the production of a movie that is set to rally the troops and wow the American audience.

The set up of the main characters lends itself more to a visual medium rather than a novel I found. In what you could easily see as an introduction to an ensemble cast ala "Inglorious Bastards", there is quite a bit of time setting up the premise of the story.

Ambrose, the washed up actor injects some much needed humour into the story
Maine Colonial
Five-star story, one-star narration

Just a note to say that the book is wonderful, but stay away from the audiobook. Peter Wickham was a terrible choice to read a book that has so much female dialog. Most of his female voices sound like children or Monty Python housewives. That’s a particular annoyance when he voices one of the main characters, Catrin Cole. It was also hard to differentiate the voices of some of his male characters from each other.

Please read the book—and see if you can find the
Dec 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: mbta
A fine recommendation from Kate and Susann, two of my favorite readers! Good character development throughout, except for the American, but I feel like that's a sign of the genre (20th c. British war fiction). Of course it's a story about filmmaking, so this is an unfair and silly criticism, but to me it felt like it was leaning towards its own BBC serialization a little too heavily.

Addendum 5/17: just saw the film version and enjoyed it tremendously. Bill Nighy as Ambrose and Eddie Marsan as hi
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At the start, I thought this would be a fluffy bit of a book, but about a quarter of the way through the main plot kicked in and I totally changed my mind. A really satisfying read-- enjoyed the characters, who were well drawn and fleshed out (even the dog!), and the plot moved well with a great structure. I'd say more but that would involve spoilers. let's just say this was one of the best books I've read this year!
a bit of a slog so far at 2/3 way through. I wish I could remember why the publisher's rep made me want to read this.
This definitely picked up toward the end, but still many of the characters were underdeveloped. I'd say it's a solid 2 1/2.
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
A gentle look at London under bombardment at the start of WW2 and the filming of a government sanctioned movie of the evacuation of Dunkirk. Quite witty and easy to read.
Julie Cohen
A really enjoyable story about making a propaganda feature film during WWII. Beautifully written, lots of fun, but with a deep and absorbing commentary on the nature of courage.
Apr 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Set during the blitz, a screenwriter writes a script for a film about Dunkirk. There are many quirky and endearing characters with lots of humor and sadness. Outstanding.
Apr 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
A good well researched read but not as good as Crooked Heart.
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Good story, interesting plot, potentially fascinating characters, but somehow the whole mix lacks vitality and strength and the narration is ever so slow I had to struggle to go through the book.
Narrative Muse
– Their Finest boldly lives up to its name and claim –

I’m one of those people: the kind who likes to read the book before watching the movie, if possible. So as soon as Lissa Evans’ (Crooked Heart, Old Baggage) comedic and tender novel Their Finest was reprinted, I was on it, devouring its pages in anticipation of the then-upcoming movie (spectacularly reviewed by the incomparable Alana Bruce). I found the book and movie to complement each other perfectly, while still being able to stand on thei
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
War, war - but bore, bore.

Set in 1940, this is the story of two women caught up in their contributions to the war effort. One is Catrin, an ad agency copywriter with a gift for dialogue, who gets conscripted into the world of propaganda films. The other, Edith, works at Madame Tussauds, gets caught up in the bombing and becomes involved with the production of the film around which the story revolves.

This is a bright and breezy read which failed to engage me quite as much as I’d hoped. It is rath
Mount Prospect Public Library
One of our patrons called to ask about this title, and his enthusiasm was contagious! At the center is a young woman who is hired to write the 'sentimental' parts of a WWII propaganda film to boost morale. Historical drama, comic elements, and a UK film adaptation has just come to US theaters. A new copy is on its way (digital, too), and when we're ready for warm and engaging, this will be on the short list.
Sara Eames
Sep 26, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
Struggled my way to page 180(ish), decided life was too short and gave up as I was not enjoying this. I couldn't engage with the characters and the plot seemed to drag on - this almost felt as though it was written for the screen rather than the page.
Jun 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Fred & Edie
  • The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight
  • Scent Of Dried Roses
  • Murder Unprompted
  • Fireworks
  • The City War (Warriors of Rome, #3)
  • The Farm at the Edge of the World
  • Odd & True
  • Few Eggs and No Oranges: The Diaries of Vere Hodgson 1940-45
  • Land Girls (Land Girls #1)
  • The Kingdom by the Sea
  • The Longest Night: The Bombing of London on May 10, 1941
  • The White Family
  • Zhek
  • Untitled Addison Allen 3
  • The Lost Dog
  • An Empty Death (DI Ted Stratton, #2)
  • The Walk Home
After a brief career in medicine, and an even briefer one in stand-up, Lissa Evans became a comedy producer, first in radio and then in television. Her first novel, Spencer's List, was published in 2002, and since then she has written three more books for adults (two of them longlisted for the Orange/Baileys Prize) and two for children (the first of them shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal). Her tw ...more
“window had been. ‘They want yer,’ he said. ‘Relentless,” 0 likes
More quotes…