Ever since I read my first novel by Rosamund Pilcher, decades ago now, I have been in love with books based in Cornwall. This book is no exception.
Introducing Tilly Barwise, one of the most endearingly original “battle maidens” of WWII, and our first protagonist. Tilly’s story begins in 1943, with Tilly, a gorgeous young woman, living her life unabashedly in tribute to “romance, cigarettes and brandy”.
Tilly is bawdy, painfully direct and often outlandish – a woman who is as determined to do her best to shock and outrage away any hint of petty pretension as she is to just simply and extravagantly enjoy herself. A one-of-a-kind heroine, it’s hard not to fall in love with Tilly, and we follow her though her first real experiences of love, with her handsome Jack, an American Air Force pilot and photographer. The story soon expands to focus on the horrors of living through a global war, both to those living the horror every day on the front-line, as well as the unimaginable impact to the lives of those loved ones left behind.
Our second protagonist is Ava, a muddled and grieving young woman, running away from her life in London., who comes to provide home care for Tilly, now an elderly and infirm woman. Ava is emotionally bereft, but no push-over, and it’s throughly engrossing to watch Ava’s path and Tilly’s, begin to intermingle, as each of them works their magic on the other, in charming, hilarious, and often unpredictable ways.
The second timeline, that of Tilly’s elderly years, is skillfully shaped and interwoven with the war-time narrative – allowing us to glimpse Tilly’s future as we re-live with her the memories of her past.
Tilly deals with the frailties and indignities of her age with the same steely determination and unpredictability that colored her youth, much to the chagrin of her family and friends, including:
-Vicky , Tilly’s “posh but dour” daughter, equally determined but absolutely no fun at all;
-Edward, Vicky’s son, who is an accountant by profession, and every bit as grim as his mother.
Totally engrossing, right up to the double-twist ending (no spoilers here!), this novel thoroughly engaged me and I’m so looking forward to reading more from this first-time author.
A great big thank you to @RandomThingstoursfor inviting me to join this #blogtour, the publisher @BADPRESSink and to the author @MJGreenwood, for an advance review copy of this wonderful and original book. All thoughts presented are my own.