Reminiscent of classic films like Brief Encounter and The End of the Affair, this is a stunningly captured story of a woman finding herself whilst the world is at war
September 1940. England is a war once again and London has become an ever-fragile place for widowed Livia Ripley and her two young daughters, Polly and Eliza. When Livia meets charismatic publisher Hugo Ballantyne, she is hopeful that her life is about to change for the better. But as clouds gather in the clear autumn sky, the wail of the siren heralds the arrival of the Luftwaffe.
As the raids intensify, Livia volunteers to be a warden at the invitation of enigmatic Justin Connelly. Here she experiences the true reality and despair of war, a contrast to the world of comfort and cocktails provided in fleeting afternoons at the Balfour Hotel with Hugo. And ultimately, Livia discovers a strength she never knew she had that will give her the power to save those she loves. For when you don't know what tomorrow may bring, there is no choice but to live for today.
Livia is bringing up 2 young daughters alone in her childhood home, having been widowed and is trying to launch herself as a photographer, in fact her pictures have been accepted by a London publisher and the heightened emotions of war building and loneliness encroaching lead Livia into a passionate and ill advised affair with the charimatic, and married Hugo.
Meanwhile bombs rain down on London and her daughters Polly and Eliza seem to be growing apart, with Eliza in particular seeming affected by the war and behaving out of character.
Livia is haunted by past events, a sister who died when they were both children, even her husbands death, hold elements which cause her to question her own role in everything that happens she blames and punishes herself for things she has no control over.
When she is presented with a chance to give something back by helping others in the war effort she fears she isn't brave enough but we see her develop and grow.
The descriptions of being in air raid shelters and going through the Blitz are gutsy, sombre and in parts intensely harrowing, reminiscent of The Night Watch The book has a haunting, ethereal quality and Livia is a fantastically substantial character, I did like her, despite being slightly flawed she is very believeable.
I can't recommend this book highly enough, the perfect winter pastime is to curl up in the warmth with a beguiling book like this.