Friday, March 13, 2015

Review: Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

The author of A Fall of Marigolds journeys from the present day to World War II England, as two sisters are separated by the chaos of wartime ... 

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, hundreds of thousands of 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…

Received for review.

This was an interesting novel, full of the heartbreak of war, but I just couldn't enjoy it.  Emmy and Julia did nothing for me as characters.  Emmy was a horrible, selfish little brat and I found myself disliking her through the entire novel.  My sincere dislike for her tainted the well written story enough to make it rather disagreeable to read.

Surprisingly, what truly ruined this for me was the multiple accounts of pets killed in the bombings of the war.  There were descriptions everywhere of dead cats killed by debris from the bombings.  The anger I felt at these horrible people for not taking their "beloved" pets with them into the bomb shelters just overwhelmed me.  There was also a truly skin crawling description of Londoners euthanizing their pets (specifically cats) so they would not starve on the war torn streets after they were left behind as their families fled to the countryside.  There was no discussion of taking the so called "beloved" pets with them.  If they're so damn "beloved" then why were they left behind or murdered?  That just made me so angry and disgusted that it ruined the entire book for me.  After the author's careless treatment of such horrible actions I just couldn't bring myself to feel anything more than disgust for the book.

Overall, while this is well written the characters are disagreeable.  Combined with their inhumane actions this does not make for enjoyable reading in the least.  If you enjoy novels set during war time and don't mind reading about animal abuse then by all means give this a try but if you have any sort of heart then don't even think about opening this.  It will leave you more depressed and disgusted by humanity than anything.  I really cannot recommend this.

★★☆☆☆ = Just Okay

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