My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It’ll never cease amaze me how many unique, important and touching stories there are to tell in history. Particularly those stories of women in WWII strike me hardest. Their bravery, determination, and pride were second to none as most volunteered to help in any way possible before conscription happened in Britain.
The Whispers of War surprised me as it's not as sad as most WWII stories are. Julia Kelly brings us a touching, moving and brilliant story of the bonds of friendship and love.
It's so nice to read a book where the women aren't always competing, at each others throats, or out to get each other. I know that it's rare in real life to find the kind of friendship Kelly describes between her three main characters in The Whispers of War; but it does exist. It's so heartwarming to be reminded that people usually intend to be good; sometimes they fall the wayside and don't even realize it. I love how the tensions of the friendship ebb and flow throughout the story.
Past to Present
As with the majority of historical figure these days, this book does flip between the WWII timeline and present day. However unlike many other books set like this the present story isn't near as relevant, and not the bulk of the novel. Kelly has done a good job of keeping us in the past with the occasional snippet to the future so that we can stay 'in the story' but also understand some of the repercussions of choices our characters made 60+ years before present day. It felt understood throughout the book that the reader really only cares about the past and so keeping the focus there worked really nicely for me.
Internment Camps and Refuge
I will confess I am very proud to read this as a Canadian. To know that we offered even one person refuge from the Nazi's is really powerful to me. Canada however is not a country without many transgressions, including our own internment camps during WWII (primarily against the Japanese); and so if you approach the end of this book and think my country is 'so great, rah, rah' (while I want to be proud of that) I would caution you that the events in Britain and elsewhere in Europe of internment and prejudice absolutely did and do still happen in Canada (sadly). No country has a clean slate; there are always skeletons in the closet.
That said it must also be acknowledged that the persecution that much of The Whispers of War focuses on in Britain is sad, frustrating and all too true. You might come away being disgusted by some of the actions of Europeans and their governments. I caution you to remember that these were extraordinary times and people were merely trying to keep folks safe. The same way that today we are engaged in extraordinary times with the covid pandemic and we can only hope that humanity of the future understands that we didn't have all the information and were just reacting as best we could most of the time.
Not unlike The Paris Seamstress this is a good 'mostly positive' WWII book. It has less death, rape, torture, etc. than books like The Tattooist of Auschwitz; and it focuses more on the girls relationships and thoughts which is easier to relate to. This is a historical fiction novel that I would definitely recommend to someone like my Mom. She likes historical novels but struggles sometimes with really gruesome events or descriptions. That's not to say that we ignore any of those awful things that certainly did happen; but a variety of novels that differ in pacing and descriptive content is always smart as it allows these stories to be accessible to more people. Otherwise some people wouldn't ever read a war time book because they can't handle the content.
For me, in the end, The Whispers of War is a must add to my growing WWII physical book collection. As always this is the highest praise I can give a book.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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