I don’t know where to start with writing this review which is unusual for me but this book was really beautifully written and told such a special story that whatever I write about it will not do it justice. I was recommended this book and I’m so glad I listened to the recommendation as this is one of those novels that has really touched me and I’m sure this is the case for everyone who’s read it.
=== The story ===
This is the story of Stella and Dan who fell in love during the second world war and also the story of Jess and Will who are trying to find out what happened to Stella and Dan some seventy years on in 2011. There is nothing straight forward about how Stella and Dan came to falling in love and where their story ended up.
Jess is running away from her boyfriend who is abusive and controlling and she happens to find an empty house which she breaks into in order to hide. She only meant to take cover whilst her boyfriend was chasing her but then she ends up staying in the house longer than she intended and whilst she is there she reads a letter. The letter is from a dying man in America who is desperately trying to trace Stella, the letter confesses his love for her and Jess is moved by it and decides the least she can do after breaking into the house is to help the American to find Stella. She looks around the house for clues and comes across a box of letters. They are love letters, sent from the American and through reading them Jess is able to piece together part of their story.
Stella was married to Charles, a vicar of her local parish and she is supposed to be a ‘vicar’s wife’ and perform lots of duties within the community to help them appear like the perfect couple but their marriage isn’t a happy one. Stella is afraid to voice her concerns to anyone but she knows it isn’t right that her husband looks as though he can’t stand her, that he has no patience for her questions and that there is zero passion in their relationship at all. Then one day she meets Dan, an American soldier who slowly but surely steals her heart. Their relationship develops slowly and as Stella falls in love she realises that there is so much more to life and to herself. She becomes less timid and begins to stand up for herself.
As Jess reads the letters sent from Dan to his sweetheart she wonders what became of them and why they didn’t get their happy ever after but how will she be able to trace them and find out?
=== Characters ===
The characters within this story are absolutely beautifully created in a way which will have you feel as though you know them. I loved the way that parallels were drawn between Jess and Stella with them both being quite fragile people with difficult backgrounds.
When reading this book, the lives of the characters unfolded slowly in a way which really drew me in and enabled me to get to know the characters well. Stella was fragile but she really flourished when she met Dan and it made me really get behind her and want her to have her happy ending with him but I could completely understand the dilemma she was in with being married to a man of the community and the way she was developed really made me feel her anguish too. I loved how Dan was such a thoughtful, caring person who was tender and a real gentleman, it was impossible to not be on his side and wishing he could get the girl!
I think there’s something really special about a book which enables you to really get inside the heads of the main characters and this book definitely has that. So much so that at one point I was really feeling Stella’s frustrations with Charles, he really wound me up!
=== Opinion ===
This is a really special book and I devoured it in 5 days. Throughout the book it made me think about a lot of things- the hardships of war and how far we have come, the difficulties in relationships, how even when things don’t go your way you can still carry on and do something good with your life…
This book is told between the two time periods and this helped to break up the book in a really good way. The story of Stella and Dan was really heart wrenching and so having the story of Will and Jess emerging in the present day was a good way to break up that and give something a bit more positive. It was also interesting to picture what Will and Jess were learning from the letters and seeing how it fitted in with what was happening. Sometimes books that flip from one time to another can be confusing but this one wasn’t, it was very clear which time period I was reading and it worked really well. It wouldn’t have been half the book it is if it wasn’t written like this.
I like that, although this book is set in WW2, it isn’t just about the war and in fact it shows how life went on in villages whilst the war was on. It was definitely more of a love story rather than being about war but with lots of interesting facts in too such as the life expectancy of the role that Dan had. It really did make me think about what it must have been like during that time.
Throughout reading this book I was moved a lot and really hoping for a happy ending for everyone. I won’t spoil the ending but it wasn’t a disappointment, sometimes books can be rushed and I often really dislike the way it ends but this one was really special and finishes in quite a comforting way.
I am extremely pleased that I read this book, it certainly is very special. I will be recommending it to everyone and I’m going to miss it now I’ve finished it! A big five out of five from me xx
Thanks for reading, you can follow me on Twitter : @Sparkle2017 x