It happens every once in a while, that I find myself reading a bunch of books set during World War II. These seem to come out in groups, never just one random book on the topic. To be fair, I chose them all, but I don’t always plan well in spacing out the reading. That is how I found myself listening to one book while reading another, both of them taking place during the war.
What I found odder still is that as a topic, this one would seem to be exhausted; and yet here I am, impressed with Cleave’s ability to show yet another perspective. This novel is almost an examination of manners and the class system in London, with war as the setting that allows certain lines to be crossed. I listened to this book and I was glad I did, besides the fact that everything just sounds better with an English accent. There is so much clever banter between the characters in this book — the naïve young teacher and her clever students, the soldiers coveting each other’s personal stores of food and letters, and the lovers trying to make the most of time and circumstances — the audiobook captured these moments with charm and grace. When it was at it’s sharpest, I was reminded of the very best scenes from the television show, MASH; particularly when the men practice teatime conversations while crouched in a fox hole or on a long night’s watch. While it did not move me to the extent of All the Light We Cannot See, (that’s a high bar in my opinion) it was still a beautifully written book. And though the plot was sometimes a bit slow and predictable, I found it comforting, because I enjoyed these characters, and I wasn't eager to give them up too soon.