I’ve long been a fan of Elizabeth Buchan’s brilliant books. As a huge reader of historical fiction, particular those set in the first and second world war, I love her ability to find a different angle to write about then others have done. I always learn something from her books and find her work intriguing and thought provoking.
Before I go to ‘fan girl’ on you with my review, let me tell you a little about the book.
‘Wrapped in the roots of the sycamore was a skeleton; the remains of a woman, between twenty-five and thirty. She had carried a child . . .’
At the close of the Second World War, Intelligence Officer Gus Clifton returns to London. On his arm is Krista, the German wife he married secretly in Berlin. For his sisters, this broken woman is nothing more than the enemy. For Nella, Gus’s loyal fiancée, it is a terrible betrayal. These three friends wonder what hold Krista has over decent, honourable Gus. And, they ask themselves, how far will they have to go to permanently get her out of their home, their future, their England?
Regular readers of my blog will know that i’m a huge fan of historical fiction but I haven’t read many books describing what happened after the second world war had ended. This was why I found The New Mrs Clifton so utterly fascinating and intriguing.
This is just one of those books that it is easy to immerse yourself in and lose hours at a time to. The writing style just draws you in and the gradual unveiling of information along with the mystery of why Krista and Gus are together keeps you interested and wanting to read more. The author is very skilled at taking the reader to a different time and place and I loved reading all the little details about every day life that were included. From the daily drudge of going shopping on the ration and the vastly different experience it is from today to the lessons on how to run a house hold that women in that era had to undertake I lapped up every little detail.
It was very interesting to find out what was happening in Britain and Germany once the war had ended. The author perfectly describes the lingering bad feeling towards the Germans in Britain and the fight for everyone to start rebuilding their often shattered lives. The descriptions of the soldiers that had been injured were particularly poignant as you realised their lives and their families would never be the same again.
For me this was the first account I had read that described Britain being involved in war crimes or atrocities towards others. I’d never read anything about the allies conduct during the war that doesn’t describe them as being heroic so it was an eye opener to find out that we were guilty of similar crimes to our enemies.
My favourite character was Krista. I thought she was quite brave coming to Britain and trying to start a new life despite facing huge discrimination. I felt very sorry for her in this regard as I didn’t feel that it was justified and the accounts of her dealing with it brought a lump to my throat. I admired her resolved to try and keep going and make the best of things. At times her fear and confusion regarding her new life and the attitude of Londoners towards her was almost tangible. I just wanted to put my arm around her at times and give her a cuddle. It must have been so hard for women in similar situations.
I have read all of Elizabeth Buchan’s books and I really look forward to reading more from her in the future. If you like well research, intriguing historical fiction you will love her books.
Thank you to Jenny Platt from Michael St Joseph publishers for kindly providing me with a copy of this fantastic book.
About The Author:
Elizabeth Buchan began her career as a blurb writer at Penguin Books after graduating from the University of Kent with a double degree in English and History. She moved on to become a fiction editor at Random House before leaving to write full time. Her novels include the prizewinning Consider the Lily – reviewed in the Independent as ‘a gorgeously well written tale: funny, sad and sophisticated’. A subsequent novel, Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman became an international bestseller and was made into a CBS Primetime Drama. She received letters from all over the world after it was published and people still come up at book events to say how much the novel affected them. Later novels included The Second Wife, Separate Beds, Daughters. After talking to some amazing women who had been employed by SOE, she wrote the Danish wartime resistance story, I Can’t Begin to Tell You, which was reviewed as ‘nerve-jinglingly engrossing’ by the Sunday Times. The New Mrs Clifton, to be published in August 2016, is based on a situation that happened in her own family after the war – only in reverse.
Elizabeth Buchan’s short stories are broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in magazines. She reviews for the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail, and has chaired the Betty Trask and Desmond Elliot literary prizes. She was a judge for the Whitbread First Novel Award and for the 2014 Costa Novel Award . She is a patron of the Guildford Book Festival and of The National Academy of Writing, and sits on the author committee for The Reading Agency.