Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Secrets of a Charmed Life

What an amazing novel by one of my favorite writers, Susan Meissner.

From the back cover:

Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets about the war that she has kept for decades...beginning with who she really is. What Kendra receives from Isabel is both a gift and a burden--one that will test her convictions and her heart.

1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, hundreds of thousands of children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed…

In her signature style, Susan Meissner has crafted an unforgettable story set in both modern day and the Second World War. She seamlessly shifts between both worlds, telling the stories of Kendra, Isabel, Emmy, and Julia with tenderness, sympathy, and yes, intrigue.

I devoured this book. It was hard not to rush through, because I wanted to savor the language. The intriguing plot, however, drew me in and pushed me forward to finish the book inside just a couple of days. It is also the kind of book I know I will revisit.

Susan is a woman of great faith, and indeed she has until recently written for the Christian fiction market. In spite of changing publishers, however, faith still plays a strong role in the story. It’s more like a strong undercurrent than a melody, but it’s unmistakably present.

I highly recommend this novel. In fact, I think it would be a great choice for any book club, because it is a multi-faceted story dealing with love, the most universal of all human experience. Love between men and women, mothers and daughters, and sisters.

Similar authors on the market with this type of story would be Sarah Jio (except for her most recent novel, which I will also be reviewing soon), and Kate Morton, both of whom meld the past and the present in their stories.

The cover blurb by Sarah Jio is absolutely the truth: Susan’s writing is “Beautifully crafted and captivating.” Her books are always good. I can hardly wait for her next novel, which will be set in the golden age of Hollywood.

Disclosure: I received an advance reading copy of this book from the author to write this review.

To read my review of A Fall of Marigolds, click here.

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