Monday, February 16, 2015

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

She stood at a crossroads, half-aware that her choice would send her down a path from which there could be no turning back. But instead of two choices, she saw only one—because it was all she really wanted to see…

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, one million 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…

Paperback, 416 pages
Published February 3rd 2015 by NAL 
arc - edelweiss
Susan Meissner has become a favorite of mine. Starting with Shape of Mercy, then Lady in Waiting and A Sound Among Trees she has shown herself to be a talented author.  Her research is spot on and with the many elements in this book I really appreciate the amount of work that went into writing it. 

Taking place during World War II Emmy and Julie are two sisters evacuated to the country from London.  It didn't take long till I was totally absorbed in this book.  Focusing mainly on Emmy the author created someone who had a goal, who wanted to make something of her life and was determined. Thinking that the war could not interfer with her plans she sets off a change reaction of events over a selfish decision.

I really enjoyed this story, it was a raw look at London and what happened during the war and the lingering effects on it's citizens.  It was emotional as I really connected with Emmy and could understand her drive and desire to control her future. There are many layers in this book and to expound on them all would contain too many spoilers.
"Emmy was vaguely aware that life was full of moments when a person knew she was at a crossroads, and that the road on the left led in a direction completely opposite from the road on the right.  
Once you stated down one road, there was no going back to that common place where the two roads began.  So you must weigh the consequences.  You must consider the outcome.  You must take your time choosing.
She was not aware that there were also moments in your life when there are two roads before you but you see only the one because that is all you want to see.
You don't weigh the consequences, then.  You don't consider the outcome.  You don't take your time choosing.
Emmy would look back on that moonlit night and wonder and wonder and wonder..."

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