Days of Grace by Catherine Hall

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Days of Grace by Catherine Hall

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: An intense war-time friendship sparks jealousy and a secret which will colour the rest of Nora's life. Definitely recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: February 2009
Publisher: Portobello Books
ISBN: 978-1846271830

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At the beginning of the war Nora was forced to leave Ma and go to Kent as an evacuee. She was just twelve years old, on the edge of puberty and had mixed feelings about the fact that Ma had been keen for her leave the dangers of London's East End. Once in Kent she's chosen by the Rivers family – daughter Grace wanted a sister – and goes to live in the Rectory. It's not long before Ma fades in Nora's memory and she comes to love her life with the Rivers and particularly with Grace. She's more than a sister to Nora, who has to come to terms with her confused feelings – and with the fact that there are irreparable cracks in the Rivers' marriage.

We also see Nora at the other end of her life. Back in London she develops a friendship with a teenager who's expecting a baby and Rose moves into Nora's home with baby Grace. Nora knows that she's sick and hasn't long to live and gradually the story of what happened during the war emerges.

It's Nora's story we hear what is happening as her illness progresses and her memories of the war surface. It's difficult to believe that this is Catherine Hall's first novel as she handles the alternating time lines with the assurance of an old hand. I was never confused abut the time and on reflection I think this is because the characters are so well developed and those in each time frame are so distinct.

Grace Rivers has a certain elusive quality. She's a blond beauty but lacks Nora's intelligence and willingness to learn and is something of a disappointment to her father, the village vicar. Her mother is kindly, but rather distant and obviously wrapped in an unspoken sadness. The girls are thrown together to Nora's delight and dismay – for what would happen if Grace realised the true extent of Nora's feelings for her and didn't reciprocate them?

As she approaches death Nora isn't keen to tell her story, but gradually the sordid tale emerges. There's jealousy, intrigue and a dreadful secret which Nora had never thought that she would share with anyone.

The characters are compelling and the story has a great pace about it but there's also the delight of the contrasting locations of rural Kent and worn-torn London in the nineteen-forties. It's splendid stuff.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals to you then we think that you might also enjoy Sweets From Morocco by Jo Verity another coming-of-age story where an act of jealousy has implications in later life.

Buy Days of Grace by Catherine Hall at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Days of Grace by Catherine Hall at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Days of Grace by Catherine Hall at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Days of Grace by Catherine Hall at Amazon.com.

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