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January 11, 2020

The Whispers of War by Julia Kelly ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

Last year when I read The Light Over London (read my review) I knew it wouldn't be my last novel by Julia Kelly. So I was really looking forward to reading Kelly's new WWII-set novel The Whispers of War. I'm glad I was on holiday when I started it because I couldn't put it down.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

January 2019; Gallery Books; 978-1982107796
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); historical fiction
I love how authors are finding new and different stories to tell in a genre that has countless books. The Whispers of War is focused on three women who have been best friends since they were children. Though they come from different backgrounds, none of them want to be defined by it.

The story is told in two timelines. The first is present-day where Samantha is looking to fulfill her grandmother's last wish. In this effort, she meets one of her grandmother's best friends and learns who the woman her grandmother really was. Nora relates to Samantha the life of three young women in London just as the hostilities in Europe begin.

We are all aware of the Japanese internment camps in the U.S. during WWII. Little is said about Germans being interned or that other countries had internment camps. In England, persons of German or Austrian citizenship were suspect and eventually sent to internment camps. The story isn't about the internment camps, but Samantha's grandmother was German so we get to see the anxiety she faced in not knowing what would happen to her as people she had known since she was a girl saw her only as the enemy.

Young Nora bucked tradition. She came from an aristocratic family, a debutante. The expectation was for her to marry into another well-to-do family and serve on charity boards like all other well-bred women. Nora had other ideas. She wanted a career, and not just as a secretary. In today's terms, she was the business manager of the Air Raid Preparations office in the Home Office.

The third woman of their trio is Hazel whose mother wanted to live life on her own terms and had Hazel out of wedlock with a married man. Hazel had hoped to overcome her scandalous beginnings but marrying well and raising a family. Unfortunately, a hasty marriage when she found herself pregnant didn't lead to a happily ever after. She becomes a divorcee during the war; ironic for a woman who works as a matchmaker for a dating agency.

So while these women are the epitome of the modern woman that emerges after the war, the book is really about friendship and accepting who you are. It is pure chance that the three met as girls and typically their lives after school would have eventually led them apart. But they were determined to remain the best of friends. That friendship is put to the test as each must decide if their friendship is more important than their own interests. Many of the choices they made in their personal lives were unpopular, but none more than Hazel and Nora's steadfast loyalty to Marie.

I love when older people tell stories about their past. So setting up the story as Nora telling Samantha about their time during the war was totally up my alley. Nora, Hazel, and Marie are also wonderful, endearing characters. I wanted to know what happened to each of them equally.

Kelly uses the plot of Germans being sent to internment camps during WWII to comment more broadly on the danger of a "them vs us" mentality and demonizing an entire race of people because there are a few evil people of that race (what race of people don't have a few evil ones among them?). Also, she wants the reader to look beyond who we know a person as and see the whole person. To Samantha, Marie had been a kind grandmother - a woman who cleaned scrapped knees and provide a shoulder to cry on when Samantha's heart is broken. But in her own right, Marie was an incredible woman who lived an interesting life. One that Samantha regrets never learning about while her grandmother was alive.

The Whispers of War is a compelling story that is much more than just another story set during WWII. The women in the book are more than people wish we knew. Instead, they are women we wish we were. If you are a fan of WWII stories and strong women, then this book definitely needs to be added to your to-read list.

Buy The Whispers of War at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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  1. Great reivew!! Glad you enjoyed it so much. You have me wanting to pick this one up.