I am a fan of Maureen Lee’s novels and have read them all. Her last I was not that enamoured with so picked up this one with some trepidation. I had no need to be fearful, it was back to the wonderful style that Lee seems to weave within a story.
Jessica, mum to Jamie and Dora is married to Bertie. Everything should be okay but Bertie is very controlling and Jessica very weak. She puts up with everything because of the children. However a mad moment in a hotel with a man who is too close to home results in Jessica suddenly having to be strong.
Bertie still wants to exert control, so he leaves Jessica alone and needing to start again. She gathers herself together and finds a job, from there she meets the father of an old friend Sara who happens to be in Paris. Jessica goes out to Sara whose father would like her to return to Liverpool before war breaks out. Jessica’s life changes as war arrives in a very different way in Paris as it would have done in Liverpool. She suddenly finds her self becoming stronger and does not recognise the weak person she once was in an occupied city. However thoughts of what she has left behind are never far from her.
Will the war ever end?
Will Jessica be able to reconcile herself with the city she has left behind? Or will Bertie still try and exert some control if she does return?
Maureen Lee, makes Jessica a character that changes, and as you read, my opinion of her changed. I disliked her greatly for what she was putting up with from her husband and mother in law. Her own mother was not much better, and Jessica was to all intents and purposes a doormat. However, the shock of Bertie’s treatment means she has to survive or give up. I am so glad she chose survival as her life in Paris shows a different part of the war. That of being occupied by the opposing nation, but also how all involved what life to go as normal. Restaurants still serve diners, theatres still open and love still blossoms.
In contrast Sara, was to begin with the antithesis of Jessica. She has spirit and strength and is not afraid to use it. It causes many tensions between her husband, her children and even her friendship with Jessica. When Jessica shares a secret, Sara is too focussed on herself to even realise what is going on. Sara loses like Jessica does and suddenly they have more in common and change is the only way forward.
It was a refreshing change to not focus the story completely in Britain and brought a rather cosmopolitan edge to the book and enable more substance to be developed with the characters as well as the plot. The story was enough to keep me turning and I enjoyed reading it. I was not sure how it would tie together and end and that is why I had to keep reading. To me a sign of a good book. This I would recommend as a good place to start if you have never read any Maureen Lee before.
I have been reading Maureen Lee novels since around 1994 and have consumed them all apart from Dusk since. They are books to consume as they are just books that do not take long to read, but absorb you in a storyline and that enjoyable saga quality which I do love about books. When I was at university this were the only types of books I read. Mainly because it was so far apart from all the history books I was reading. The love of them has stayed with me, even if some of her novels are not up to scratch, I have always gone back for more. Some authors have put me right off and have not ventured back for a long time.