Book Reviews

Secrets of a Charmed Life (a novel) by Susan Meissner

Quick overview of the book 

secretsThe novel, Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner is a story within a story. The story starts out in present day England where Kendra, an American college studying abroad finds herself needing to interview Isabel Macfarland. Isabel, a 93 year old who survived the blitz bombing in England during World War II, yet has never given an interview of her experiences, until now. Not only does Isabel tell her story about surviving the blitz, but she shares with Kendra who she really is. Now it’s up to Kendra to tell and share her story with other, but the questions Kendra is left with is why and why now?

As Isabel begins framing the past story, we are introduced to sisters Emily and her younger half-sister Julia, who live in England with their mother Annie. Like many other children, they are sent to live in the country with foster families, as a safer option during the war. Emmy, an inspiring fashion/ wedding dress designer is left with leaving not only the city she loves behind but the job she has only dreamt of. As fate would have it, there is an opportunity for Emmy to go back to the city, but just as she does England is hit with the Blitz. As the story continues we learn how she survived and what she lost.

To summarize the story is about sisters, the mother daughter relationship, chasing your dreams, fighting to stay alive, finding out who you are after traumatic affects, how small decisions can change the course of our lives, and about losing something precious. The underlying questions the reader is left with is to determine what it means to have a charmed life, and once you finally “have it all” are there always hidden truths/secrets that  got you there.

My thoughts on the book

This book is came to me as a surprise. I was with family on vacation and has already finished the book I brought along with me when my aunt said she had an extra book she thought I might like. Boy was she right! I had a hard time putting this book down, finishing in less than 4 days. I was surprised with how invested I was with the story even when I thought I knew who Isabel, that didn’t stop me from continuing to turn the page and keep reading.

I enjoyed both the present day and past stories. Though the book was primarily sent in the past it was perfectly intertwined with the present day story. As someone who did not grow up during World War II, I found the book to not only be intriguing with regard to the characters and their personal storied but also educational. I think I found myself so invested in the story because to some extent I could related to Emmy, as I myself have a younger sister, just as she had Julia and I understand her desire to want to look out for Julia.

There is so much content in this book and so many decisions each character has to make. Some decisions, as a reader I didn’t understand or agree with, but in the end we see how each of those choices affect those in the book. But it was those decisions that kept things interesting and made for such a good read, as I wanted to see truly how each of those decisions played out.  As any story having to do with war, one can expect to deal with tragedy and lose and this book is filled with that, in more ways than one. Be prepared so shed a tear or two, I know I did. I highly recommend this book and hope others enjoy it as much as I did!

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