Love in a Time of War by Adrienne Chinn is the story of three sisters during wartime, how the inconveniences of war can shatter dreams and promises, disguise lies, hide secrets and offer opportunities previously unimagined. In 1913, Cecilia Fry, eldest of the three Fry sisters, is nineteen when this story starts. She has fallen in love with her young German teacher and must decide whether to spend the summer with Max in Germany or in London working for the suffragist movement. Eighteen-year old Jessie is studying at nursing school and has been offered an amazing opportunity of which her mother disapproves. Jessie’s twin Etta visits the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts where she meets an Italian artist. All three sisters have dreams for the future, but those dreams are to be thrown into disarray by the Great War.
Love in a Time of War starts with a Prologue set in Italy in 1891. A young Englishwoman called Christina, visiting her Italian family on the island of Capri, falls in love with a young tourist. What happens during this Italian summer reaches through every page of this novel with its themes of the life of women at the dawn of the twentieth century, the new possibilities for women, promising independence, a voice and freedom of expression, weighed down by society’s traditional expectations of their role and behaviour. This is a view of a prosperous middle-class family, though the plight of working-class women is glimpsed via Milly, the Fry’s maid of all work who leaves to work in a munitions factory, and Jessie’s nursing friend Ivy. The three sisters choose completely contrasting paths in life and their stories are followed as war is declared and the family separates. Each in turn faces a difficult choice and then must learn to live the life they have chosen. Little do they realise how their own decisions echo the choices their mother also faced at a similar age.
Towards the end there are number of coincidences which enable the tying up of loose ends, these felt awkward and abrupt. But the Acknowledgements at the end explains how the novel was inspired by the author’s own three great-aunts and grandmother who lived in Britain, Canada and Egypt. So perhaps real life does provide coincidences that are presumed good, or bad, luck.
A gentle, romantic war story, ideal for reading on holiday. As the first book in a family saga series, ‘The Three Fry Sisters’, this book ends as life after war begins and the sisters face the new lives they have chosen. Book Two will cover the Twenties and Thirties, while Book Three will span World War Two into the Seventies.
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If you like this, try:-
‘Waiting for Sunrise’ by William Boyd
‘The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing’ by Mary Paulson-Ellis
‘My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You’ by Louisa Young
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
LOVE IN A TIME OF WAR by @adriennechinn #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5Pd via @SandraDanby