#BookReview: Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

Reviewer: Allie

secrets of a charmed lifeI received a review copy

During World War II, the English government decided to evacuate the children of London, to protect them from the brutal bombings of the Germans.  Fifteen year-old Emmy and her younger sister, Julia, are sent to a foster home in the English countryside.  Despite the fact that the girls are assigned to a loving home, Emmy is resentful of her circumstances.  At fifteen, she is only a few months shy of being an adult.  She’s eager to return to London and begin her apprenticeship will a well-known dress designer.  She can’t wait to begin her life, far away from her single mother, who Emmy suspects is supporting the family in a morally questionable way.  More than anything, Emmy wants to live a different life, one that her mother will be proud of.

Emmy comes up with a plan to return to London, so she can begin her apprenticeship.  Unfortunately, Julia stumbles upon her goodbye letter and demands that her sister take her along.  In panic and desperation, Emmy agrees.  The young girls manage to make it back to the city, on the very day that Germans begin the blitz of London.  Emmy makes a fateful mistake that separates the sisters and changes her life forever.

Seventy year later, an Oxford graduate student gets the opportunity to interview the artist Isabel Crofton for her thesis.  Isabel is a survivor of the London blitz and she tells Kendra the sister’s tale.  That’s when things get very interesting – and I cannot reveal any more, or it will spoil the book.

Obviously, this book is not your typical chick lit – but it is a fantastic and compelling read.  The character of Emmy comes alive on the pages as you read about her dreams of being a wedding dress designer and proving to her mother that she can do things the right way, the respectable way.  As is typical of most teenagers, Emmy takes everything personal – including the German blitz of London.  Damn the Nazi’s if they were going to mess up her plans.  Besides being selfish, fifteen year-olds are also very compulsive, naïve, and inexperienced, which can often be a fatal combination.

Meissner’s descriptions of the London bombings are brutally realistic, and the reader should be prepared to feel anxious.  The author’s description of the post-traumatic stress that afflicted the children of London is heartbreaking.  The question of what happened to Julia is central to the book, but the mysteries of fate and providence are what kept me enthralled.  Are the consequences of our actions, beyond our control?  This is the story about coming of age at a time when the world is falling apart, the lengths one goes to survive, and a young girl’s quest for redemption.

I highly recommend this thoughtful and engrossing read.

5 Stars

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1 Comment

  1. February 15, 2015 / 8:11 am

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