Wednesday, August 23, 2017

REVIEW: Goodnight From London by Jennifer Robson

Goodnight From London
by Jennifer Robson

Publisher: William Morrow
Page Count: 400
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Format: Trade Paperback ARC

How got: LibraryThing giveaway

First attention getter: already liked the author


From GoodReads:

From USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Robson—author of Moonlight Over Paris and Somewhere in France—comes a lush historical novel that tells the fascinating story of Ruby Sutton, an ambitious American journalist who moves to London in 1940 to report on the Second World War, and to start a new life an ocean away from her past.

In the summer of 1940, ambitious young American journalist Ruby Sutton gets her big break: the chance to report on the European war as a staff writer for Picture Weekly newsmagazine in London. She jumps at the chance, for it's an opportunity not only to prove herself, but also to start fresh in a city and country that know nothing of her humble origins. But life in besieged Britain tests Ruby in ways she never imagined.

Although most of Ruby's new colleagues welcome her, a few resent her presence, not only as an American but also as a woman. She is just beginning to find her feet, to feel at home in a country that is so familiar yet so foreign, when the bombs begin to fall.

As the nightly horror of the Blitz stretches unbroken into weeks and months, Ruby must set aside her determination to remain an objective observer. When she loses everything but her life, and must depend upon the kindness of strangers, she learns for the first time the depth and measure of true friendship—and what it is to love a man who is burdened by secrets that aren’t his to share.

Goodnight from London, inspired in part by the wartime experiences of the author’s own grandmother, is a captivating, heartfelt, and historically immersive story that readers are sure to embrace.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 5

Out of this entire author’s works I've read, this book stands out as a favorite so far. She tells a story of maturing, fighting against adversity, and making one’s way in the world even though the odds may be stacked against you. Her world building skills are also nothing to sneeze at. I found myself rooting for Ruby more and more as the story progressed.

I've read works before that detail Blitz-era London, and I've read great takes on it. Robson’s take ranks up there with the best. The immediacy she works into her words grabs the reader by the throat and doesn't let go. We experience the horrors of war right along with Ruby: bombed-out shells of homes, those left homeless and hopeless on the streets of London, the tragic loss of friends and colleagues, and the anxiety caused by never knowing when or where the next one will drop. Robson has it all.

Yet for all that, there's also a certain sense of hope, victory, and courage about her characters and atmosphere as well. Despite it all, everyone goes along with their lives: working, loving, and living. They don't let the anxiety of imminent death keep them from loving their families nor working towards their dreams. Ruby expresses her admiration for the courage of the British during this horrible event, and the reader can’t help but agree with her opinion.

The heart of our story, though, is Ruby. She's the kind of female lead I love in historical fiction. She isn't an Amazonian warrior feminist crusader (though there's nothing wrong with that) nor is she a docile, gentle lamb of her era (also nothing wrong with that). She's just a regular woman with big dreams, the courage to strive for them, and the iron will to withstand the prejudice and hardships she faces. Her quiet strength and determination to better herself both professionally and mentally gained my admiration; I couldn't help but root for her on every page and during each scenario.

The romance aspect wasn't as large as previous works. I found it to be far secondary to Ruby's journey as a woman and professional writer surviving in World War II London. Maybe this was the author’s intention, maybe not. Either way, I enjoyed it that way. Bennett is still very much present in the story as a man working behind the lines to bring his country to victory. His scenes with Ruby are emotionally packed and tug at the heartstrings. There’s still enough romance to please the palate either way.

To me, this is Robson's best work so far. Her fantastic lead character makes you love her from page one. Ruby isn’t going to win the war single-handedly nor she going to sit meekly at home, knitting socks. She's a woman like any nowadays who has a dream and the will to chase it. I love her for that. Robson’s world building make the reader experience World War II rather than just reading the words on a page. And her romance is still present enough to make any romantic happy while being more muted than previous works, not taking over the story completely. I highly recommend this work; in fact, it's probably the best work to start with if experiencing Jennifer Robson for the first time.

Note: Book received for free via LibraryThing giveaway in exchange for an honest review.