“Fear is worse than pain, I think. Pain is centralized, identifiable, and wanes as you wait. Fear is a heaviness you can’t wiggle out from under. You must simply find the will to stand with it and start walking. Fear does not start to fade until you take the step that you think you can’t.” – Susan Meissner, Secrets of a Charmed Life
I know they say you shouldn’t live in the past but I keep finding myself in the midst of various World Wars because I cannot stop reading historical fictions novels. So in this case, let’s forget what the people say- because with Susan Meissner’s book, Secrets of a Charmed Life, the past is by far, the best place to be.
Secrets of a Charmed Life is truly a magical book. It starts off in current day England where college student/reporter, Kendra Van Zant has been lucky enough to snag an interview with London Blitz (WWII) survivor, Isabel McFarland. Despite her reluctance to talk about her time during the war, she launches into a story of two sisters, Emmy and Julia Downtree in the midst of WWII.
The heart of this story is set in 1940’s England during which London’s children are evacuated to the rural countryside to foster homes as London is bombed by the Nazi’s. Sisters Emmy and Julia find themselves living an iddlic life in a Cotswold cottage despite the raging war. While their life in the country is safe and loving, 15 year-old Emmy wants to return to the city to make her wedding dress designer dreams (damn, that alliteration tho…) come true, however little sister Julia cannot bear to be away from her beloved sister. When the sisters are tragically separated, the journey Meissner takes the reader on is truly transformative, emotional and wonderfully suspenseful.
Okay at this point, I’m trying really hard to resist using capslock to convey how much I LOVE THIS BOOK (whoops… just failed), but Meissner had me hooked on page one and she didn’t falter once. As much as this book is about WWII, it relies heavily on the relationship of the two sisters and all the complexities along with it. Because those relationships are so complex, sometimes I think I might not fully ‘get’ books that are so sibling-centric (#onlychildproblems). However, this book is so beautifully written that I wasn’t reading those emotions, I was feeling them. So, despite my own lack of siblings and a deep understanding of those types of relationships, I felt like I can say with confidence that Meissner nailed it.
Hands down, the most intriguing aspect of this book was the secrets Meissner kept until the end. In an effort to avoid spoilers, I will just say that the allusiveness of the story keeps you hooked until its 5:30 and you realized you just spent your whole work-day reading. So please, please, please if you haven’t read this book, go pick it up. By the end I was like…
What are your favorite historical fiction novels?