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Ratings and Book Reviews ()

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3.8 out of 5
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  • A family torn apart by war

    Two stories run in parallel as book curator Lucy St. Clair tracks down the elusive Lily, a person who appears to have featured strongly in the life of Nancy Mitford. Lucy's research leads her to London, an English country estate, and WWII museums, all in the quest for answers to an inscription found in a book belonging to her mother. A combination of extracts of letters and Nancy's story written in the first person, the novel brings to life the heartache, pain, and drama that epitomized the Mitford family, divided by war and ideology. With names of well-known characters from the era being drawn into the story, one receives a fresh perspective of the reality of life in wartime London. Certainly, I found that I was unable to put the book down once I started reading, and at times I felt as if my heart was being torn out of my chest. I received a copy of this semi-biographical novel as a prize in a charity drive to support the current Ukraine War, and I feel privileged to have been able to read this advance copy from the author, received through NetGalley. This is my honest and voluntary review.

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  • Amazing

    1930's to present time A rich, emotional story that spans time as two people are brought together in an unexpected way. This is Eliza Knight at her best, with historical facts woven into the life of Nancy Mitford, an author and socialite, who sparkled but was also wounded inside. She tries to make ends meet by working in the Mayfair bookshop. Current day, Lucy St. Clair travels to England to have a chance to work in the famous Mayfair bookshop, she hopes it will help her heal and takes a first edition book by Nancy, inscribed with a mysterious message. I love reading about history and now will have to investigate Nancy Mitford and find out as much as I can. Such a touching story that wrapped around my heart!!

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  • Historical fiction focusing on friendship & family

    Thanks to the Book Club Girl Early Read program & NetGalley for a digital advance reader's copy. All comments and opinions are my own. I am rating this novel at 3.5 stars as it promised more than it delivered, yet it checked my boxes for a good read: historical fiction about a London bookstore and a writer, with a present day mystery. Author Eliza Knight incorporated the real life bookstore, Heywood Hill Ltd, and acclaimed writer Nancy Mitford – one of 1930s London’s hottest socialites, authors, and a member of the scandalous Mitford sisters – in a dual-narrative story also featuring Lucy St. Clair, a fictional modern day American book curator looking for change in her life. The oldest of six children of the notorious Mitford family (think Kardashians of the 1930s), Nancy is one of the 1920s’ Bright Young Things, who after 10 years of partying is now ready to marry and settle down. Current day Lucy is in London for two weeks, curating books for her American employer. The connection between the two women is the Heywood Hill bookshop in the heart of Mayfair, London, and a book Lucy owns, written by Nancy and inscribed to “Iris.” Lucy also has a collection of letters written by Nancy, which she hopes will reveal who Iris is, as Nancy left the book in the bookshop for Iris, who never picked it up. Lucy’s recently deceased mother (and also a Nancy Mitford fan) purchased it years ago, along with the letters. The novel alternates between the two women and their time periods, with the majority of pages focusing on Nancy during the London war years. And I thought Nancy’s was the better story. The Nancy chapters often begin with an excerpt from the real-life Nancy’s letters to friends like author Evelyn Waugh. What I found confusing is frequently the chapter began with a letter to someone, such as one of her sisters, but was crossed out and the rest of the chapter was her thoughts. Or the letter suddenly ended without conclusion as the rest of the chapter continued with Nancy’s first person narration. I would have liked an explanation from the author after the novel’s conclusion that explained why she chose to write the novel incorporating the letter format when the letters were very brief and Knight soon changed point of view from letter to interior monologue. On a positive note, I appreciated that while Nancy’s chapters were told in the first person, Lucy’s were in third person. Made it much easier to remember who the story was focusing on. Nancy’s life is sad, as she is unhappily married to Peter Rodd. They are unable to have a child, and Peter is repeatedly unfaithful. On top of this, they are always in debt due to his overspending and under-employment. In addition to her heartache with Peter (who she nicknamed “Prod”) she feels responsible for two of her sisters’ misguided infatuations with Hitler and their support of the fascism that will soon lead to World War II. One of the highlights of the book, and of Nancy’s life during this time, is her friendship with Sophie, a woman she meets while volunteering during the war. “Ours was a friendship born on the brink of war, and fed by comradery when our country was at its worst….Time again and again, friends have been my saving grace, the people who raise me up and motivate me to go on.” In addition to the theme of friendship, the novel concludes with both Nancy and Lucy finding personal courage to pursue their own happiness. Lucy considers her efforts to locate the mysterious Iris. “Maybe it was meant to be my quest because I needed it. Without the search for Iris, and all the places it took me, I might never have discovered the things about myself I needed to learn to take my dreams into my own hands.” When the time came, Lucy had been the one to find the courage to pursue her own happiness – her own future – much like Nancy Mitford herself.

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  • Well researched and written

    Very enjoyable well written and well researched read about the Mitford family during the 30s and 40s along with the now very common practice of interspersing a contemporary story in the mix (which is the reason I didn’t give it 5 stars…these contemporary mixes are getting a bit tedious and this one set in a two weeks time frame seemed a bit far fetched for the character development). But a good historical piece and has peaked my interest to read some of Nancy Mitford’s novels.

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