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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Review: The Last Night In London

The Last Night In London
Author: Karen White

Publisher: 5th May 2021 by Simon & Schuster Australia

Pages: 480 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: historical fiction, world war II, women’s fiction

My Rating: 5 crowns


New York Times bestselling author Karen White weaves a captivating story of friendship, love, and betrayal that moves between war-torn London during the Blitz and the present day.

London, 1939. Beautiful and ambitious Eva Harlow and her American best friend, Precious Dubose, are trying to make their way as fashion models. When Eva falls in love with Graham St. John, an aristocrat and Royal Air Force pilot, she can’t believe her luck—she’s getting everything she ever wanted. Then the Blitz devastates her world, and Eva finds herself slipping into a web of intrigue, spies, and secrets. As Eva struggles to protect her friendship with Precious and everything she holds dear, all it takes is one unwary moment to change their lives forever…

London, 2019. American journalist Maddie Warner, whose life has been marked by the tragic loss of her mother, travels to London to interview Precious about her life in pre-WWII London. Maddie has been careful to close herself off to others, but in Precious she recognizes someone whose grief rivals her own—but unlike Maddie, Precious hasn’t allowed it to crush her. Maddie finds herself drawn to both Precious and to Colin, her enigmatic surrogate nephew. As Maddie gets closer to her, she begins to unravel Precious’s haunting past—a story of friendship, betrayal, and the unremembered acts of kindness and of love.

My Thoughts

I’m not frightened.” Mr. Danek’s eyes darkened. “You should be. Being brave isn’t the same as not being frightened. Being brave is feeling frightened and still doing what needs to be done.”

I have to state it from the outset, this book was amazing! From the gripping prologue I simply could not put it down and lost myself in a complete other world. If historical fiction is your thing - particularly WWII - then stop right now and go get yourself a copy. Two equally compelling storylines, two friends in war-torn London whose secrets will impact upon those in years to come - this is a story that had it all!

‘She looked past me, and in her eyes, I imagined I saw the reflection of airplanes in a night sky, of flames bursting through windows.’

This would be one of the best dual time narratives I have read - whether I was dressing for a night out in London with bombs reigning down, or sifting through old photos in search for a clue - I was there breathing in the smoky room or smelling the nostalgia literally leaping off the old black and white photos.  The delicate and clever links from one timeline to the next were subtle and intuitive. The mystery - whether it be in 1940 or 1919 was there and little ‘crumbs’ dropped along the way only encouraged you to not put the book down as the drama played out and I audibly would gasp as I felt my heart constrict knowing this was how things would possibly play out. 

“That’s the point of photographs, isn’t it, Maddie? To choose which parts of our lives we want to remember?”

The characters (....pause....sigh....) well, I just felt so much for so many of them. Karen’s writing is so rich that I found myself either tearing up as tragedies unfolded or alternatively, smiling at the romantic banter and consequent tension between would-be lovers. There will be secrets, there will be betrayals, there will be love and there will be absolute heartache. The stories from either life in the South (Georgia USA) or during the blitz in London were informative and engaging - particularly the latter. The old fashion house of London and those that worked there were iconic on so many levels. 

‘A life without rain is like the sun without shade.’

I consider myself a connoisseur of this time period having read so many books and this one is up there with the best of them. Karen brings to life so many places, people and problems that I was running to air raid shelters or sipping whiskey late at night in quiet contemplation. I simply could not get enough of these people and their story. You will have all the feels and I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

“In case I forgot what?” He glanced down ... “Reinvention.” He lifted his head, met my gaze. “How life is all about reinvention. If you don’t like how your story’s being written, rewrite the ending.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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