Genre: Historical fiction
England, 1943: Home is no longer safe for eight-year-old twins Molly and Jacob. Night after night wailing bombs and screeching planes skim the rooftops overhead. They cradle each other, shivering in terror, not knowing if they will live to see dawn. Their mother, Martha, has no choice but to evacuate them to the safety of the countryside.
At the train station, Martha bites back tears as she says goodbye to her precious children. Knowing she might never see them again, she gives Jacob a letter, pressing the envelope into his hands and telling him to only read it if they are in danger.
In the country, Molly and Jacob must adjust to life with strangers. Every night they dream of returning home to the arms of their beloved mother. But then the unimaginable happens. Martha is killed in an explosion, leaving the twins all alone in the world.
The war has robbed Molly and Jacob of everything – all they have left is one another. Motherless and destitute, they face the grim reality of life in an orphanage. The time has finally come for Jacob to open the letter. What secret does it hold, and could it change the course of their tragic fate? Because if they are together, they can survive anything – but what if they are torn apart?
My verdict: Firstly thank you to net galley for letting me read this book prior to its release and I’m so glad I did because I’ve now found a new historical fiction author that I love. I have to admire the authors intentions when highlighting the prejudice faced by those with cerebral palsy in 1940 and for me I identified with Molly a lot. This book made me laugh and cry all in one sitting with a mug of hot chocolate as I soaked up every delicious detail and relived every event alongside the characters. I adored Jacob and he truly embodied the old British motto of the stiff upper lip at times we saw a vulnerability which reminded us that even children and men are allowed to feel things as deeply as women do. Shirley Dickinson sympathetic and empathetic writing reminded me of Ellie Dean and Annie Groves and I have to say she is a welcome addition to my bookshelf since Ellie Dean finished writing the Cliffhaven series. I loved her cosy characters all dealing with their own personal struggles such as grief, anorexia and being a child from a country that is considered an enemy. I admired Martha and all that she did for her children and all that she sacrificed for them. I found her to be a woman of substance and if I ever had the chance to meet her in person I would like to thank you for instilling confidence into her daughter Molly in regards to her disability and how her grandmother is still at attitude towards gossip and excuses helped her flourish when she was plucked from her comfy life into chaos which must’ve been very lonely.
I loved Mr Bob and Doris who reminded me of my favourite childhood read, ‘goodnight mr Tom’ and I knew when I first encountered these two characters that the twins would be well loved.
Overall, it’s a sweet read packed with action at every turn. I could see this turned into a radio drama. It strikes the right balance of being heartwarming whilst still portraying the harsh realities of war and how not every evacuee was lucky to find a second family and the impact it had on the next generation. I applaud the author for addressing the stigmas attached to disabilities and prejudice towards the marriages of the lower and upper class as well as extramarital affairs and those who are reluctant to face up to their parental responsibilities, leaving the women with tarnished reputations. In summary a lovely read with equal doses of gritty realism and moments of happiness.