Two women. One house. And a wartime secret that spans decades…
Norfolk, 1945: Only a few months ago Nancy Jones was fighting for her country as a gunner girl. Now she’s struggling to adjust to her responsibilities as a gamekeeper’s wife. After a whirlwind romance, Nancy is deeply in love with her handsome husband Joe but there is still so much they don’t know about each other. When a secret from Nancy’s war years threatens to resurface, will the terrible truth about the worst night of her life shatter their new marriage?
Norfolk, 2019: Devastated by the sudden loss of her husband, Lorna Haynes escapes to the beautiful but crumbling Gamekeeper’s Cottage. There, she stumbles upon a locked room. When she enters, it’s like going back in time. A soldier’s uniform hangs on the back of the door, the flowery wallpaper still intact, the spindle of the record player frozen and ready to play. At the back of the room, Lorna discovers a red, leather-bound diary in a hidden compartment of a desk drawer.
As Lorna battles with heartache, she takes comfort in reading the ink-stained words. Turning the pages of the old book, she learns of the incredible bravery of the woman who lived in the house decades before her. And discovers a shocking wartime secret that will change the course of her own life…
Fans of The Nightingale, The Alice Network, and Lilac Girls will love this unforgettable, poignant tale of love, loss and courage during the darkest days of war.
The Secret Diary is told via a dual timeline, something I am sure some of you already know I absolutely adore!. Alternating between the present day and the 1940’s, we follow the lives of two incredibly strong, resilient women as they navigate their way through the many difficulties life has thrown at them.
In the present day Lorna is trying to come to terms with the loss of her husband following a tragic accident. As she tries to adjust to life as a single mother as well as being a widow, she decides to go and stay with her mother for the summer, with the added bonus of having some much needed support throughout her grief. Her mother has recently married David and moved into the house he has recently inherited, and as she is adjusting to her new surroundings she comes across a notebook that has been tucked away in a hidden compartment within a desk draw.
The diary belongs to Nancy, a gunner girl from the war, and within the pages of this diary we get to experience what life was like for Nancy throughout such uncertain times and the friendships that she had made with the women she worked alongside too. Their job of shooting down Nazi planes was often given to men, but with them all being called away to war the job falls to this group of women. When the war finally comes to an end, they struggle to readjust to life as it was before, especially the aspect of forming relationships and having to maintain their traditional roles – something incredibly difficult following all they have achieved.
I absolutely adored this book from the moment I began reading it. The characters are authentic and believable, and with each passing chapter we get to learn more about them and the lives they have lead and the situations that have made them who they are. The storyline flows effortlessly from beginning to end, and as the timeline alternates between past and present tense you get experience the hardships they faced alongside them. The plot is perfectly structured and is laced with mystery and intrigue as we learn more of Nancy and what secrets she harbours. This is a truly captivating story that I would recommend to others who love historical fiction as much as I do.
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About the Author
Anna Stuart lives in Derbyshire with her campervan-mad husband, two hungry teenagers and a slightly loopy dog. She was hooked on books from the moment she first opened one in her cot so is thrilled to now have several of her own to her name. Having studied English literature at Cambridge university, she took an enjoyable temporary trip into the ‘real world’ as a factory planner, before returning to her first love and becoming an author. History has also always fascinated her. Living in an old house with a stone fireplace, she often wonders who sat around it before her and is intrigued by how actively the past is woven into the present, something she likes to explore in her novels. Anna loves the way that writing lets her ‘try on’ so many different lives, but her favourite part of the job is undoubtedly hearing from readers. You can reach her on Facebook @annastuartauthor or Twitter @annastuartbooks.
*Thank you to Sarah Hardy at Bookouture and Anna Stuart for providing me with a gifted copy of this book in return for my honest review. All thoughts are entirely my own and not influenced in any way.*