HarperTorch, 2004 (2003)
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Reviewed by Shannon Bigham
aving never read anything by Emily Grayson, I started
with an open mind and with no particular expectations. It begins in the present day as eighteen-year-old Carrie visits her eighty-one-year-old grandmother Maude, to help pack and sort through her belongings (Maude's husband passed away and she is no longer able to live alone, due to deteriorating health). Being a packrat, Maude has decades of '
' in her attic. As the two unpack a steamer trunk, they unearth an old book of poetry, and Maude is overcome with memories. Maude recounts to her granddaughter the book's history and how she received it. A beautiful love story unfolds that forms the basis for this novel.
hen Maude was eighteen (in 1938), she was a resident of the United States. Hitler's power was increasing and it was unclear how his dominance would affect Europe and perhaps the entire world. Britain's status was especially unsure as it was teetering on the edge of what would turn out to be World War II. Despite this uncertainty, Maude bade goodbye to her family and boarded a ship to attend Oxford University's school for women where she would indulge her passion for literature. As a teenager in the United States, Maude never had a boyfriend. She simply could not relate to the '
' nature of other young women her age. Therefore, Maude was blindsided when she began to develop a subtle, yet undeniable attraction to her literature professor (referred to as a '
' at Oxford), Stephen Kendall.
t was customary for a tutor and his or her student to spend time alone together, studying and reviewing coursework. Desire grew between Maude and Stephen. However, Stephen was married to Helena, a cold woman with a '
'. Indeed, Stephen appeared to be
in a loveless marriage. Just as a relationship was growing between Maude and Stephen, World War II began and the latter was whisked off to the Royal Navy to assist in the war efforts. War changes people, their circumstances and futures uncertain, and this case was no exception. Maude and Stephen were separated and Maude's studies of literature at Oxford came to an abrupt halt. As she began a new chapter in her life, Maude had many questions and no answers: What would happen to the love that she shared with Stephen? Would Stephen survive the war? Would they be together again?
he novel was engrossing and a thoroughly satisfying read. I found myself not wanting to put it down. Grayson transports the reader to another time in history, that gives the present day reader an appreciation for the World War IIís survivors along with those who lost their lives in the war. Maude's and Stephen's love story is reminiscent of the novels of best-selling author Nicholas Sparks, and I highly recommend
to readers who enjoy love stories and historical sagas.
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