Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"Secrets Of A Charmed Life" by Susan Meissner


Do you remember the last phenomenal book you read? The feeling of being so overjoyed your read such an amazing story, then the feeling of sadness once it ended, and then feeling despair, sure that you will never again read another book that compares to its greatness? That's how I felt when Susan Meissner's "Secrets Of A Charmed Life" ended.  

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…

I won't tell you much of the story. I wouldn't want to deprive you of the vast array of feelings brought on while reading this novel. Every emotion from happiness, fear, sadness, anger, love, loss and anxiety is felt throughout this story. Meissner did a wonderful job writing. I was surprised to look up from reading and see that I was in my 2015 living room in Kansas, USA and not in 1940s war-torn England. 

Historical Fiction has become one of my favorite genres as of late. I loved that Meissner seamlessly combined a modern day narrative with historical memories and storytelling. There is a simplicity to the writing, yet the story is deeply dimensional. Meissner transports the reader to a time and place that I, as an American born in the 80s, never even imagined but could see every little detail. It is a true glimpse of a war and the effects of the devastation it brought to all who lived it.

This story is told in perspectives of 3 characters starting with a present day conversation, leading to a reminiscence of the past, then told through the perspective of past journal entries, and ending once again in present day. The center of this story revolves around events leading up to, during, and after The London Blitz. 

The theme throughout this book is choices. The choices we make can effect others around us, but when life altering events happen because of a choice, is the person who made it solely to blame? This book has vivid character development and luscious scenery descriptions. It was easy to get lost in the story.

Though I loved the book overall, the ending seemed rushed. Like stated before, the last part is told through the perspective of past journal entries. It sort of made me feel detached from the story. Like I was no longer a part of the story, but a person peaking in. Not a huge issue, but I definitely noticed the small disengagement I had despite the fact I wanted to find out what happens. 

All in all, this was a wonderful story saturated with a time in history that fascinates me. A 5 star read for me! I hope you like it too! 

Happy Reading! 

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