Friday, May 13, 2016

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

genre: historical fiction

Emmy Downtree knows exactly what she wants in life.  Living in London as World World 2 is just beginning, she wants to design bridal gowns and NOT end up like her mother.  Except, of course, war picks up our dreams and tosses them into the air and we don't get to choose where they fall, and as the Blitz turns one choice into a life-altering heartbreak, dreams have to take a backseat to a very harsh reality.  

Set in the 1930s-50s but bookended by the modern day, this story read really quickly for me.  I loved and was completely engaged in Emmy's life, her hopes and devastation as war takes away so much of what she holds dear.  I believed in her teenager-ness and her choices felt as passionate and misguided as a real teen's.   The storyline was complex and engaging and in the end, I believed almost all of it. At one point the story switches narratives and that part felt a bit less set in the time period - some questions were answered in a way that made sense but others felt rushed and I did see the ending ahead of time.  But the overall conclusions I really liked - about how one decision can change everything, for good or bad, but that doesn't mean it can't resolve in a way that we can be at peace with later.  About how we can only make choices based on the options handed to us in any given moment, and about how we can only do our best to find happiness when we've solved everything we can possibly solve.  A few parts made me feel emotional, in a powerful and good way, so even though I'd have liked the book to feel more "British," and a few things stretched my imagination a bit,  I did enjoy it a lot.

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