Monday, November 12, 2012

Lavender Road: London at War by Helen Carey

Lavender Road. Helen Carey. TSAP Books. Sold by all e-book retailers.  November 2011. 384 pp. E-book: 712 kb. 

Most war stories hit on a major love story and major battle scenes.  Helen Carey has tapped into the very fiber of English life in the days preceding the bombing of England during WWII and during the actual bombing.  The story centers on several families who have all the ups and downs of real life but who forge on with that gritty, strong English attitude.  They appear together but bleed internally like every human being.

We begin with Jen Carter who wants to be an actress but has no training, just a high school drama at which the audience clearly connected to her very special acting and singing skills.  Plus she's a great mimic.  But home life is far from serene and she spends most of her time at home fighting with her mother, that is until she meets an Irish hunk of guy, Sean.  Jen needs to be needed so does anything to make Sean happy, including sleeping with him anywhere and everywhere.  But after numerous rejections and one very dangerous scene, opportunities open for Jen and she begins to find herself and think more of others unlike before.  The hardships of war and pulling together in everyone's need cannot help but change Jen! And her mother breaks out of a very narrow world to become an actually very pleasant and interesting woman!

There's a rich girl who wants to meet a guy and be loved but finds only teases or nice guys who don't want to mar her "virgin" status. Or her father, who is so stuck in tradition that he drives away everyone he encounters.  Perhaps you'd better like the man who can't fight in the war because of a weak physical condition but who does something so heroic it makes others look like cowards.  There are also two elderly sisters who have trained and costumed famous actors and are far from stereotypical "little ol' ladies."  Another handsome guy in the Royal Air Force tells everyone he's a pilot when in fact he's a spy for England undertaking highly dangerous missions, ones that make him grow old before his time.

Lavender Road is rich in so many diverse ways.  It's a bit slow at times in the beginning but picks up a pace like wild fire about a quarter-way through and absolutely delightful. We read how women sought roles in the war that changed their images of themselves and made them better people for it, although it shook up the home territory.  We see prejudice rear its ugly head against those who had escaped the slaughter of Hitler.  There's so much more than what is contained in this review.  Lavender Road is great historical fiction - a lovely slice of life in the East End of London during a very, very dangerous time! Kudos to Helen Carey for a job so well-done!

P. S. This reviewer's mother lived through the bombing of England in another city and so knows how very accurate the history is herein!  Brought back memories of Mom's stories, funny and harrowing!