I’m a big fan of Julia Kelly’s historical romance, which I discovered because she’s my friend Justine’s sister. However, I generally don’t like dual-timeline women’s fiction (did anyone else find this was all the historical fiction that was available in about 2008-2010? I got so fed up!), so I was apprehensive about picking this up. I needn’t have worried. Julia’s command of character and language is so good that I was hooked from the very beginning – The Light Over London is a really compelling story that I’m still thinking about, weeks later.
Book: The Light Over London by Julia Kelly
Read before: No
Ownership: E-ARC provided free of charge by NetGalley for review. All opinions my own.
Essentially, we have two linked timelines here – Cara, in the present day, finds a diary written by Louise, who was a young woman during World War II. It begins as though the past timeline will follow a small town story with explorations of family and first love, but with the war looming, Louise’s story takes a real turn as she meets Paul, an RAF pilot, and joins the anti-aircraft gun unit. Cara becomes fascinated with unearthing her history.
As is usual with dual-timeline for me, I was more interested in the past than the present, but that’s largely down to my preference for genre. I thought Cara, our present-day protagonist, was very well-written, and I loved her relationship with her grandmother, which managed to be simultaneously super close and full of secrets. I found Cara’s personal journey and romance less interesting, but did enjoy watching her solve the mysteries brought up by learning about Louise, and I particularly enjoyed that she made an effort to track her down, with the help of her new neighbour, Liam. Cara and Liam have plenty of chemistry, and the only reason that I was less enamoured of their chapters was that I was so very interested in Louise’s story.
Louise was such a fantastic character. I loved watching her find her core of inner strength – she’s been subordinate for so long to her controlling mother, and in the shadow of her confident cousin. It’s amazing to see her find a niche in which she can truly blossom, and the respect she gains from her companions among the Ack-Ack girls has a huge effect on her. I really wanted to believe that her relationship with Paul, the RAF pilot, was as strong as she felt it was, but without giving away too much, I found the subtle hints to the contrary absolutely fascinating. I knew something was up, but I absolutely wasn’t expecting my heart to be crushed in that particular way! The way that Julia writes emotional scenes (not just sad ones, but deeply complex ones) is just amazing – I found myself crying by the end of the book from the sheer overwhelmingness of the emotions.
Even if you aren’t normally someone who would pick this up from the blurb, I highly recommend it. The characters are just wonderful, and the research into the period is evidently well-done and well-woven into the story. It’s powerful, and genuine, and really, really good. Five out of five cats.