#WarTimeClassics #BlogTour Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle

It’s an honour to take part in the BlogTour for Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle. This is the third of four books being re-published by the Imperial War Museum.

In September 2019, to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, IWM will launch a wonderful new series with four novels from their archives all set during the Second World War – Imperial War Museums Wartime Classics.

Originally published to considerable acclaim, these titles were written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the conflict. They all capture the awful absurdity of war and the trauma and chaos of battle as well as some of the fierce loyalties and black humour that can emerge in extraordinary circumstances.

Living through a time of great upheaval, as we are today, each wartime story brings the reality of war alive in a vivid and profoundly moving way and is a timely reminder of what the previous generations experienced.

The remarkable IWM Library has an outstanding literary collection and was an integral part of Imperial War Museums from its very beginnings. Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) searched the library collection to come up with these four launch titles, all of which deserve a new and wider audience. He has written an introduction to each novel that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background and says, ‘Researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.

Each story speaks strongly to IWM’s remit to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand. They cover diverse fronts and topics – preparations for D-Day and the advance into Normandy; the war in Malaya; London during the Blitz and SOE operations in occupied Europe and each author – three men and a woman – all have fascinating back stories. These are Second World War novels about the truth of war written by those who were actually there.

About the Author

Anthony Quayle was a renowned Shakespearean actor, director and film star and during the Second World War was a Special Operations Executive behind enemy lines in Albania.

About the book

A candid account of SOE operations in occupied Europe described by Andrew Roberts as ‘As well as being one of our greatest actors, Anthony Quayle was an intrepid war hero and his autobiographical novel is one of the greatest adventure stories of the Second World War. Beautifully written and full of pathos and authenticity, it brings alive the terrible moral decisions that have to be taken by soldiers under unimaginable pressures in wartime.’Review

The story or rather the writing style, especially the beginning, has a theatrical flair. Very much as if Quayle were setting the scene for the stage or the camera. This is evident even if you aren’t aware of who the author is.

Quayle makes a poignant point about liaison officers in conflicts, skirmishes or times of war. Their job during times of peace is one of mediation and go-between, but in times of conflict they often have a specific job. Convincing the natives to work with them and against the enemy.

Words like liaison sound great – very diplomatic. The truth is they are often advising native groups, such as the resistance, to commit acts that will have disastrous results for their lives, their village, town or country and the lives of their fellow countrymen. It can mean torture and/or death. When the allies go home and the liaison officer disappears, those native inhabitants still have to live and survive in possibly hostile environments.

A comparison in our era is using natives to translate and as guides in the Middle East and then leaving them high and dry in an environment that considers them to be traitors to the country.

The author describes the important brotherhood bond and the camaraderie which exists and is amplified during the war. You have to trust and rely on the person or persons next to you to have your back. They understand like no other person what every soldier is going through. It’s one of the strongest bonds that exist.

Unfortunately, just like many other novels written about WW2 by eyewitnesses, this book has slid into obscurity. The Imperial War Museum is doing us all a great service bringing them back into the fold of the book world to be enjoyed by new readers. They are a learning experience written by voices who should be heard and remembered.

Buy Eight Hours from England at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Buy at Amazon com. Published by Imperial War Museum on 26 September 2019 – Wartime Classics – £8.99 each.

About the Imperial War Museums – IWM

IWM (Imperial War Museums) tells the story of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since the First World War.

‘Our unique collections, made up of the everyday and the exceptional, reveal stories of people, places, ideas and events. Using these, we tell vivid personal stories and create powerful physical experiences across our five museums that reflect the realities of war as both a destructive and creative force. We challenge people to look at conflict from different perspectives, enriching their understanding of the causes, course and consequences of war and its impact on people’s lives.

IWM’s five branches which attract over 2.5 million visitors each year are IWM London, IWM’s flagship branch that recently transformed with new, permanent and free First World War Galleries alongside new displays across the iconic Atrium to mark the Centenary of the First World War; IWM North, housed in an iconic award-winning building designed by Daniel Libeskind; IWM Duxford, a world renowned aviation museum and Britain’s best preserved wartime airfield; Churchill War Rooms, housed in Churchill’s secret headquarters below Whitehall; and the Second World War cruiser HMS Belfast.’

The Last Letter from Juliet by Melanie Hudson

This is going back quite a few decades, but this reminded me of the television series A Man Called Intrepid. Romance, intrigue and the world of spydom set around WW2.  In this case it is also about women’s empowerment and their role in supporting their countries during the war.

Katherine is enticed or persuaded to go down to Cornwall for Christmas. She is invited to stay in a holiday cottage owned by Juliet. Whilst there she finds notes and letters written by Juliet to remind herself of her own past, memories and those she loves and loved the most.

Letters written as reminders to a woman who fears she will one day forget everything she has experienced and more importantly forget the heartache and the love she experienced. Katherine finds herself captivated by the stories Juliet has left behind.

The story wanders from Katherine in the present to the beautiful story of Juliet in the past. It’s the gripping heartfelt story of an incredibly brave and determined woman and the man she falls in love with. It’s also a glimpse at the women of the Air Transport Auxiliary service during the Second World War.

Hudson captures those stolen moments in dangerous and desperate times. It’s a love story and a story about loyalty, support and the love of flying. I enjoyed the way Hudson let Juliet’s story play out. It was beautiful, nostalgic and emotional.

It’s historical fiction with a charming love story at the core.

Buy The Last Letter from Juliet at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: One More Chapter; pub date 23 Aug. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Follow @Melanie_Hudson_ on Twitter

#WartimeClassics #BlogTour Trial by Battle by David Piper

It’s an honour to take part in the BlogTour for Trial by Battle by David Piper. This is the second of four books being re-published by the Imperial War Museum.

In September 2019, to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, IWM will launch a wonderful new series with four novels from their archives all set during the Second World War – Imperial War Museums Wartime Classics.

Originally published to considerable acclaim, these titles were written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the conflict. They all capture the awful absurdity of war and the trauma and chaos of battle as well as some of the fierce loyalties and black humour that can emerge in extraordinary circumstances.

Living through a time of great upheaval, as we are today, each wartime story brings the reality of war alive in a vivid and profoundly moving way and is a timely reminder of what the previous generations experienced.

The remarkable IWM Library has an outstanding literary collection and was an integral part of Imperial War Museums from its very beginnings. Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) searched the library collection to come up with these four launch titles, all of which deserve a new and wider audience. He has written an introduction to each novel that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background and says, ‘Researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.

Each story speaks strongly to IWM’s remit to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand. They cover diverse fronts and topics – preparations for D-Day and the advance into Normandy; the war in Malaya; London during the Blitz and SOE operations in occupied Europe and each author – three men and a woman – all have fascinating back stories. These are Second World War novels about the truth of war written by those who were actually there.About the Author

David Piper was best known as director of the National Portrait Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The novel is based on his time serving with the Indian Army in Malaya where he was captured by the Japanese and spent three years as a POW. His son, Tom Piper, was the designer of the hugely successful Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London to commemorate the First World War Centenary.

Buy Trial by Battle by David Piper at Amazon Uk

About the book

A quietly shattering and searingly authentic depiction of the claustrophobia of jungle warfare in Malaya described by William Boyd as ‘A tremendous rediscovery of a brilliant novel. Extremely well-written, its effects are both sophisticated and visceral. Remarkable’, and VS Naipaul as ‘one of the most absorbing and painful books about jungle warfare that I have read’ and by Frank Kermode as ‘probably the best English novel to come out of the Second World War.’

Review

This is one of four books being released by the Imperial War Museum to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War. I believe they should be part of school curriculum – part of a learning experience for the younger generations. It’s hard for them to fathom how many people lost their lives, returned with life-changing injuries, so they can live their lives in freedom now.

When events like the Great War and the Second World War are so far back in history that the remaining few eye-witnesses will soon be a memory themselves – it’s important to remind the young of the lost generations and the trauma those involved went through.

Part and parcel of that is shining a spotlight on the literature that was written by authors who had first-hand experience of the hell that is war.

What makes this book and the fictional account of his factual experiences so exceptional is the way Piper captures a different kind of warfare in his story. Warfare in settings that the soldiers weren’t trained for – in this case the jungle. He captures the suffocating feel of the jungle. The feeling of isolation, which is countered by the danger you can’t see coming in the dense foliage. Soldiers trained for the desert had no idea how to cope with the jungle. It made them more vulnerable to the enemy.

At the same time Piper also gives an accurate account of the colonialism that was still alive and well in India at the time. The difficulties between Indian soldiers, Indian officers and the British officers sent in to control them all.

It’s a gripping piece of war fiction, written with brutal honesty and the kind of realism only an eye-witness can bring to the table.

Buy Trial by Battle at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Imperial War Museum Wartime Classics will all be on sale Thursday 26 September 2019; cost £8.99 paperback.

About the Imperial War Museums – IWM

IWM (Imperial War Museums) tells the story of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since the First World War.

‘Our unique collections, made up of the everyday and the exceptional, reveal stories of people, places, ideas and events. Using these, we tell vivid personal stories and create powerful physical experiences across our five museums that reflect the realities of war as both a destructive and creative force. We challenge people to look at conflict from different perspectives, enriching their understanding of the causes, course and consequences of war and its impact on people’s lives.

IWM’s five branches which attract over 2.5 million visitors each year are IWM London, IWM’s flagship branch that recently transformed with new, permanent and free First World War Galleries alongside new displays across the iconic Atrium to mark the Centenary of the First World War; IWM North, housed in an iconic award-winning building designed by Daniel Libeskind; IWM Duxford, a world renowned aviation museum and Britain’s best preserved wartime airfield; Churchill War Rooms, housed in Churchill’s secret headquarters below Whitehall; and the Second World War cruiser HMS Belfast.’

#BlogTour The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl, (Translator: Don Bartlett). It’s a driven, enthralling combination of crime, spy, political and historical fiction with skewed lines of betrayal, truth and justice.

About the Author

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

Follow @ko_dahl @OrendaBooks #TheCourier on Twitter, Visit  kjelloladahl.no

Buy The Courier

About the book

In Oslo in 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In great haste, she escapes to Sweden whilst the rest of her family is deported to Auschwitz.

In Stockholm, Ester meets the resistance hero, Gerhard Falkum, who has left his little daughter and fled both the Germans and allegations that he murdered his wife, Åse, Ester ’s childhood best friend.

A relationship develops between them, but ends abruptly when Falkum dies in a fire. And yet, twenty-five years later, Falkum shows up in Oslo. He wants to reconnect with his daughter Turid. But where has he been, and what is the real reason for his return? Ester stumbles across information that forces her to look closely at her past, and to revisit her war-time training to stay alive…

Review

Nicely done! This author plans with such meticulous accuracy it’s a pleasure to read how the crime, the solution and whole premise comes full circle from start to fruition. At times the reader is left wondering how on earth all the threads are going to be pulled together successfully or indeed at all.

The author takes the reader back and forth through three timelines. It starts in 2015 when Turid recognises a stolen family heirloom on an auction site and she sets out to retrieve what is rightfully hers. Then we are taken into the year 1942 and the world of the Holocaust, occupied Finland and the men and women of the resistance.

Some of those characters reunite again in the 1960s, when a former resistance hero, Gerhard Falkum, rises from the dead to return to his daughter. A young woman orphaned as a baby when both parents are killed in the midst of a brutal war.

I was sure of the whodunnit from the get-go, but the author made me doubt the why and often even if I was right about the culprit. For me, although it is at the core a story about one murder hidden in a decade full of murderous atrocities, it’s also about the circumstances which lead to the crime. The attempt to let the past and the dead rest in peace, and understanding that sometimes the truth is best left buried.

It’s also about whether a leopard changes its spots, especially when it is given the opportunity to prey on more vulnerable targets than ever before. Does fighting against an evil regime, a sense of righteous indignation and need for vengeance give certain people a false sense of brotherhood and trust? The kind of misplaced trust that can kill people perhaps.

It’s a driven, enthralling combination of crime, spy, political and historical fiction with skewed lines of betrayal, truth and justice. Kjell Ola Dahl is a scribe who writes with conviction and a simmering passion for the written word.

Buy The Courier at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Orenda Books: pub date 21 Mar. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Read my review of The Ice Swimmer by Kjell Ola Dahl,  Read my review of Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl.

#BlogTour Sleeper: The Red Storm by J.D. Fennell

Today it is my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Sleeper: The Red Storm by JD Fennell. The sequel to the successful dystopian action thriller Sleeper.

The Red Storm manages to crank up the action even higher, which I didn’t think was possible after Sleeper, but Fennell brings even more to the table this time.

About the Author

J.D. was born in Belfast at the start if the Troubles, and began writing stories at a young age to help understand the madness unfolding around him.

A lover of reading, he devoured a diverse range of books – his early influences include Fleming, Tolkien, Shakespeare and the Brontës. He left Belfast at the age of nineteen and worked as a chef, bartender, waiter and later began a career in writing for the software industry.

These days he divides his time between Brighton and London, where he lives with his partner and their two dogs.

J.D.’s debut, Sleeper, was published by The Dome Press in April 2017.

Follow @jd_fennell or @DomePress on Twitter or on facebook.com/JDFennellAuthor/

Visit sleeperbook.com

About the book

Will starling has been drafted into the SOE, joining forces with the French Resistance, but his  memory is fractured and only occasional flashbacks reveal fragments of his past. When his mission is compromised, Will suspects that he’s been betrayed. Back in London he hears that VIPER are developing a deadly weapon. As he and MI5 agent Anna Wilder set out to destroy it, their every move is anticipated by their enemies.

While Will fights to prevent genocide, his sister, Rose, has become the key to VIPER’s future plans and is drugged to dull her kinetic powers. But Rose faces danger from an unexpected enemy and her time is running out.

Q&A with JD Fennell

After the resounding success of Sleeper you are back with sequel, Sleeper – The Red Storm..

What was or is the inspiration for Sleeper? I wanted to write the kind of books I love to read. The Sleeper series are fast-paced spy thrillers with mysticism, the supernatural and sophisticated period technology on the fringes of reality. I wanted to be in that world, so I created one.

I would put this series in a multitude of genres, which is probably what makes it a read both younger and older readers find intriguing. It has elements of historical, war dystopian, sci-fi, spy thriller and industrial revolution steampunk meets futuristic weaponry genres. It is suitable for younger, young adult and older adults. An any age read, so to speak.

Was is it your intention to meld all of these different elements together or was it more of a this is where the plot is leading me kind of thing? Yes, it was. I wanted the characters to age as the story progresses. I did not want to remain in the same small timeframe. The first in the series, Sleeper, is a YA, which can be read by younger and older readers. In the sequel, The Red Storm, the characters are adults and well-established spies. Red Storm has an older voice and darker themes and as such has been marketed as an adult thriller.

Leading on from that was it also your intention to write a series that a person of any age can pick up and read, and parents would be happy to buy their book-hungry children? Yes I suppose it was. The third in the series will take place some years after the close of Red Storm. It will also be a darker book. That said I do intend to return to Rose’s story and write a short ebook about her. All that said, I would caution parents about choosing Red Storm for their children because of the dark themes and adult content, which will increase in the third book. They may want to read it first before passing it on. I know some parents have done this already.

As a parent of both book hungry and reluctant readers I know I have found it difficult at times to find a way to encourage my youngest son to read. He needed to build his reading, writing and comprehension skills, and yet the majority of books didn’t stir his interest. I had to search for the more unusual books to get him to read. I think Sleeper and The Red Storm fit into the bracket of letting younger readers experience the action packed creativity of a writer who doesn’t just want to tell them how the ugly duckling became a beautiful swan.

Do you think the book industry invests enough in books for younger readers that cross boundaries of imagination, creativity and outlandish theories? I don’t think I could comment on that because I don’t know enough about the children’s book market. However, I do know that middle-grade is a huge business and YA – in the UK – not so much. In the US, however, YA is massive.

I don’t want to give any of the many surprises, deaths and plot twists away, so I am going to try to keep the questions about the book as neutral as possible.

What made you pick this particular period in history? I loved the idea of a spy story set during the war without the war being the main focus. Also, I love the clothes, the cars and the lack of internet, social media and celebrity culture. What’s not to love about that?

Will seems to accept and forget the deaths of his comrades and friends very quickly. Is this part of his training or because of the trauma he has been through? Will spends his time on the run dodging bullets and fighting psychopaths and cold-blooded killers. His training has taught him resolve and his trauma has hardened it.

The concept for the actual Red Storm is akin to the biological weapons the world is threatened by in our era. Did you take inspiration for this from reality? Very much so. The threat of these type of weapons exist today and was close to my mind when I wrote it. I suppose this gives the books a modern twist.

What is the difference between the Will of Sleeper #1 and the Will of Sleeper #2: The Red Storm? The Will in book 1 is an amnesiac whose memory loss makes him question who he is. He believes himself to be an ordinary sixteen-year-old, however, deep inside him is a burning rage that he cannot explain. When he is in a life-threatening situation his first thought is to run. As the story progresses he learns more about his past and by the end of the book his rage has a focus.

The Will in Red Storm is the ‘Liberator’ and ‘Executioner’. (Readers of Sleeper will understand what this means). So, when it comes to VIPER he kills without remorse.

What’s next for Will and his band of merry people? (I have read the shocking ending of The Red Storm – there is no way you can just leave it there…). I’d say expect the unexpected. That’s all I’m saying.

Thank you for answering all of my questions. Thank you for hosting me.

Review

The Red Storm is the sequel to the successful dystopian action thriller Sleeper. There is definitely a notable change in Will in this book. He appears to be more ruthless and less inclined to dither in the pool of emotions. People fall to the side, die and disappear, and yet Will glosses over each event, because his eye is on his goals.

There is a new dangerous threat in this book. At first Will thinks his enemies are talking in some kind of strange code when they reference a storm coming, until he encounters the Red Storm in person, then he realises just how big the threat is.

Meanwhile as Will is set on his own course and targets, the reader finds out what is happening to his sister. The story of Rose is disturbing, especially when it comes to the procedures she has to go through. She is so important to the enemy camp that they are willing to go to any length to get what they want, regardless of her young age.

I am not going to go into any more details, so you can discover this highly explosive and fast-paced read for yourselves. It is a read I would recommend to readers who are looking for an author who is able to combine a multitude of genres and create a new exciting read.

The action is cranked up even higher in this book, which I didn’t think was possible after Sleeper, but Fennell brings even more to the table this time. He also ends the book on one heck of a cliffhanger, which means we will probably…hopefully be reading more about Will in the future.

It’s a complex dystopian action thriller with the vibe of a war and spy novel. It ‘s non-stop action from start to finish – it’s one hell of a ride.

Buy Sleeper: The Red Storm at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Publisher: The Dome Press, pub. date 25 Oct. 2018

Read my review of Sleeper book #1 Buy Sleeper

#BlogTour Love and Death in Shanghai by Elizabeth J. Hall

Today it is my turn on the BlogTour for Love and Death in Shanghai by Elizabeth J. Hall. It’s a story inspired by the author’s uncle who was a policeman in Shanghai between 1924 and 1942.

About the Author

Elizabeth J.Hall works in politics in the UK. Love and Death in Shanghai, her debut novel was inspired by the life and death of her uncle who worked in the Shanghai Municipal Police in the 1920s and 30s. Elizabeth’s first memory is of her mother crying when she received a telegram reporting his assassination.

Elizabeth lives in East Sussex with her husband. After a degree in French, she trained as a teacher with a particular interest in social and health education. She worked in the USA, West Africa and London before becoming a consultant, developing programmes of health education abroad, including Central Asia and Russia.

About the book

Shanghai 1924. Sam Shuttleworth joins the Municipal Police looking for adventure and to escape his working class roots in Lancashire. Shanghai is a glamorous, fascinating place – with an extremely dangerous criminal underworld. Sam rises through the ranks and marries his glamorous Russian lover Lulu, but the relationship is tumultuous, with infidelities on both sides.

In the 1930s, as Japan invades China and moves into Shanghai with appalling violence, Sam has to negotiate between warring sides, and wonders if he will ever find peace amidst the chaos of his relationships and the bloody events of his career.

Review

It’s a story inspired by the author’s uncle who was a policeman in Shanghai between 1924 and 1942. Love and Death in Shanghai represents chaos. The political chaos of that era in history and also the emotional chaos of the main character.

I think it’s important not to underestimate the level of violence and animosity in Shanghai during the decades before the war. For a working class lad from Lancashire it must have been a complete culture and environment shock. Suddenly being confronted by such disdain for human life, extreme levels of decadence and poverty, must have been extremely traumatising for Brits living there and lads joining the Municipal Police.

The extremely dangerous situations and constant death he is surrounded by probably explains why Sam tends to spend all of his free time seeking thrills, such as sexual release and intense spontaneous relationships with women. He also has a completely hypocritical attitude when it comes to the women in his life. He gets jealous, but in the same breath thinks nothing of having a quick shag on the sly, just because he feels sexually neglected.

The scenes of intimacy are crude, brash and low-brow, which is perhaps in keeping with the chaos and violence of the setting. Fair warning for readers who dislike that or prefer a different approach.

The end of the story leads into World War 2, Pearl Harbor and the foreigners being detained in Japanese internment camps. There is an obvious reason the story ends there, but I would have liked to have found out a little more about the other characters after they go their separate ways.

Buy Love and Death in Shanghai at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Kindle edition

#BlogTour The Very White of Love by S.C. Worrall

It’s my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for The Very White of Love by Simon Worrall. It is a nostalgic ode to Nancy and Martin, and of course to their love and a relationship that took place across many miles through the medium of pen and paper.

About the Author

S.C. Worrall was born in Wellington, England and spent his childhood in Eritrea, Paris an Singapore. Since 1984, he has been a full-time, freelance journalist and book author. He has written for National Geographic, GQ, The London Times and The Guardian. He has also made frequent appearances on Radio and TV, including the BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent: NPR and PBS. He speaks six languages and has lived in or visited more than 70 countries. The Very White of Love is his debut novel.

Follow @simonworrall @HQStories

Visit simonworrallauthor.com

Buy The Very White of Love

About the book

Torn apart by war, their letters mean everything…

‘My love. I am writing to you without knowing where you are but I will find you after all these long months…’

3rd September September 1938. Martin Preston is in his second year of Oxford when his world is split in two by a beautiful redhead, Nancy Whelan. A whirlwind romance blossoms in the Buckinghamshire countryside as dark clouds begin to gather in Europe.

3rd September 1939. Britain declares war on Germany. Martin is sent to the battlefields of France, but as their letters cross the channel, he tells Nancy their love will keep him safe. Then, one day, his letters stop.

3rd September 1940. It’s four months since Nancy last heard from Martin. She knows he is still alive. And she’ll do anything to find him. But what she discovers will change her life forever.

Review

This story of romance, first love and the tragedy of war is based on the correspondence between Martin Preston and Nancy Whelan. Her son found the letters and a picture of Martin after the death of his mother, and decided to tell the world about this forgotten blip in time instead of letting it fall into the deep hole of unknown stories.

Unfortunately none or not many of her letters exist, but the author has been able to give the reader a good idea what they would have looked like based on Martin’s emotional and honest letters to Nancy.

Aside from the romantic element of the story, the author also highlights the tragedy of war. In this case both World Wars, during which whole generations of young men were annihilated, and damaged both mentally and physically. Even the men lucky enough to return home were never the same again. You don’t just bury trauma like that without it leaving some kind of mark.

One of the things I think is important to note when discussing the events of both the Great War and World War 2, is the military hierarchy and how it influenced the process of decision-making and number of fatalities. In fact it is probably also the case in other war conflicts and so-called skirmishes. There is this automatic assumption that academic learning and higher socio-economic status in life equates to good leadership skills in the military hierarchy.

This meant that inexperienced, and often very young men were made officers and therefore put in charge of the lives of all men beneath them in the hierarchy. The irony of the fact these boys had lower ranking men with prior war and military experience working beneath them and giving them advice, and yet not in charge, is just tragic in every sense of the word.

Men who have no clue what the situation is on the ground are making decisions that will ultimately kill many innocent men, because they are playing games of strategy in their office. Officers not suited to their positions are leading hundreds of men into traps. Is it any wonder the majority of lower ranking soldiers speak of the same frustration when it comes to the reality of war.

Anyway I digress, although in a way it is pertinent to how Martin ended up where he was and perhaps ultimately decided his fate and that of many others. Although the information was hard to gather, put together and the exact truth will never be known, it is fair to say he was a brave man.

I believe Simon Worrall has made the best of a double-edged sword. He found a secret that determined the inner emotional stability and/or turmoil of his mother and her marriage to his father. She kept the torch burning for Martin throughout her life. Their love was romanticised in her head, especially because it was never physical, and the dreams of a wedding and children were never fulfilled.

It’s the not knowing that makes the brutally interrupted first love something she dwells on in moments of unhappiness or frustration. The trauma of not knowing the truth, and perhaps never quite believing it, stayed with her forever.

It’s a beautiful story, probably one of very many during that particular era, but this one provided the author with enough physical evidence to be able to replicate the events. Obviously he has filled in certain scenes with fictional dialogues and descriptions, but he does so with the greatest respect towards his own family and the family of Martin Preston.

It is a nostalgic ode to Nancy and Martin, and of course to their love and a relationship that took place across many miles through the medium of pen and paper.

Buy The Very White of Love at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Published by HQ 14th June 2018 Hardback  ebook  Audio