The Heart of the Night by Judith Lennox
|The Heart of the Night by Judith Lennox|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Meghan Burton|
|Summary: In search of a job just before World War II, Kay Garland takes a place as companion to Miranda Denisov, daughter of a wealthy Russian man who moves his family through Europe at lightning speed. This riveting historical saga is full of compelling characters, has a plot which never lets up and is overall a joy to read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 512||Date: June 2009|
|Publisher: Headline Review|
When Kay is hired as Miranda's companion, she has no idea what to expect; she just knows that she would like to leave behind her quiet life in the English countryside. She quickly befriends Miranda and becomes her partner in crime, evading Miranda's 'aunt', really her father's ex-mistress, and seeking out adventures in a variety of European cities. Trouble begins, however, when Miranda meets Olivier, a young aspiring filmmaker who believes that Miranda would be a stunning actress. Unsurprisingly, Miranda truly falls in love with Olivier, which inadvertently leads to Kay's dismissal and return to England. Now separated, these best friends must find their way on their own throughout World War II. With Kay in England and Miranda in East Prussia, the women's lives are completely different, providing us with a huge backdrop in which to fall in love with these characters and become enchanted with their lives.
This book was absolutely stunning, perhaps more so because I did not expect it to be. I did not have any expectations, but had I, this book would certainly have delivered on them. The plot, while occasionally predictable, is huge and packs a number of surprises. With such a long book, I expected to feel some sort of impatience, but there is truly never a dull moment. It's written in the third person with the narrative alternating between a focus on Kay and Miranda for the most part but with some attention directed towards their friends and lovers. These alternating perspectives are certainly a large part of the novel's appeal; no one storyline is ever given a chance to drag, but I was always anxious to find out what happened next to each character. Miranda and Kay have vastly different lives and vastly different personalities; their interactions and letters kept me fascinated but so did their daily lives.
Naturally, World War II looms hugely over these characters. As both Kay and Miranda are women, they are not on the front themselves, but their loved ones are and they certainly feel the hardships of the war. Perhaps the most moving scene in the book is the day that Kay knows her loved one is landing on the beaches of Normandy; she waits, imagining what might be happening to him, struggling with the lack of news. This scene was incredibly touching and gave me a glimpse into the difficulty so many women endure every day as their husbands, boyfriends, sons, and brothers fight for their lives and for their country.
Despite these external events, the focus of this book lies squarely on the relationships between characters. They befriend one another; they fall in love with one another; they marry without love and wonder whether it will grow or whether they will resent their lives in the future. Both Miranda and Kay, as well as a few of the secondary characters, go through numerous relationships. The nuances of difference between them are fascinating. While the world is collapsing around them, both Miranda and Kay want to be loved and to fall in love. This search and eventual discovery powers the narrative. I found myself cheering for both women and falling in love with them myself. I wanted them to emerge from the war happy, spirits intact, with the loves of their lives beside them.
Since this was my first experience with Judith Lennox, I truly feel that I was missing out before and will definitely be seeking out her backlist. Thank you very much to the publisher for this review copy!
For a shorter book which similarly explores the effect of World War II on a group of wonderful, loveable characters, try The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Heart of the Night by Judith Lennox at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Heart of the Night by Judith Lennox at Amazon.com.
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