We stand in the back of the hall as the children troop in. Big ones, little ones. Straggly hair, cropped hair, curls… the adults surge forward to choose and soon there is just one child left, a little girl sitting on the floor. She is thin as a string bean and her sleeve is ragged and damp – like she’s been chewing it.
1939. War has broken out – hundreds of children are evacuated to the countryside to keep them safe from the bombs raining down on the cities. Wrenched from her family in the East End and sent more than a hundred miles away, seven-year-old Pearl Posner must adapt to a new life away from everything familiar.
Vivienne didn’t ask for an evacuee child. In fact, she’s not sure her heart can take it. So many years, so many disappointments… Vivi’s ability to feel love left her the day she learned the truth about her husband Edmund, and when she made the worst decision of her life and left her cherished sister to her fate. But like it or not, Pearl is here to stay, and what with the rumours about what’s happening to children in mainland Europe, it might be the last safe place for her.
As Pearl and Vivi learn how to live together, they discover that they have a connection that runs more deeply than they could ever have guessed – from before Pearl was born, and deep into Vivienne’s past. And will it be Pearl – the little girl who says so little and sees so much – who forces Vivi to finally confront what happened in her marriage… and to the long-lost sister she loved so dearly and let fall so far, just when she needed Vivi most?
Published April 16th 2019 by Bookouture (UK)
~ Review ~
It had been quite some time since I’d read an historical saga set during one the world wars, yet here I am reading two back to back this week. At one time I read a lot of these types of books, and after this week I really won’t be leaving it so long – I’ve really appreciated the change from thriller after thriller and am reminded how much I do like historical fiction – especially that set in the late 19th and early 20th Century.
When I Was Yours has a somewhat unique approach – at least one I have never come across before – with a dual narrative set in both WW1 and WW2. I thought this was brilliant, not only in demonstrating the differences in the periods through the eyes of main character, Vivienne, but also in seeing the impact the wars had on those who lived through them both.
I enjoyed both time frames, which are told in alternating chapters. I was intrigued by Vivienne’s story – as a brave ambulance driver during WW1 and an anxious and reluctant evacuee host during WW2 and wanted to know what had happened in the intervening years to change her so much? I loved the characterisation of her vivacious sister, Olive, in particular and found her tragic story both inspiring and heartbreaking. Having grown up on my own grandmother’s stories of her time as an evacuee, I fell head over heels for Pearl Posner and the impact her arrival had on Vivienne. I still find it staggering that children were sent away to live with what could be anyone!
There’s a strong theme of intolerance running through this book. Not just between warring countries, but also at home where expectations and attitudes are slowly shifting. It’s interesting and quite poignant to see the shift played out between both WW1 and WW2, both within the community but individually as Vivienne developes and grows as a fully formed character.
When I Was Yours was an emotional and thought provoking read with the fascinating perspective of both wars. It brought tears to my eyes several times and yet also managed to make me smile. Well worth a read!
I read an advance ecopy courtesy of the publisher