Spring has sprung here on our little farm in Central Arkansas, which means that my outdoor chore list has grown as well. Chores are not so bad, however, when you have an audiobook to keep your mind occupied. I received this book for free as a member of the christianaudio reviewers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
The author of A Fall of Marigolds journeys from the present day to World War II England, as two sisters are separated by the chaos of wartime …
She stood at a crossroads, half-aware that her choice would send her down a path from which there could be no turning back. But instead of two choices, she saw only one—because it was all she really wanted to see…
Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets about the war that she has kept for decades…beginning with who she really is. What Kendra receives from Isabel is both a gift and a burden–one that will test her convictions and her heart.
1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, hundreds of thousands of children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed…
After I finished listening to A Fall of Marigolds, I sought out another title by Susan Meissner. I quickly selected her latest release Secrets of a Charmed Life, because I only recently learned about the evacuation of children from London during WWII. A discovery that I, as a mother, perceived to be both heartbreaking and necessary – a sacrifice of love. In trademark style, Meissner has created a beautiful union between the present and the past.
As the oldest of 5 siblings myself, the connection between reader and antagonist Emmy Downtree was instantaneous. Emmy’s mother was always placing the responsibility for the care of her younger daughter squarely on Emmy’s shoulders. Needless to say Emmy, having already celebrated her 15th birthday as the story begins, was ready to be free of this responsibility and anxious to pursue a future in dress making. Unfortunately, the German Luftwaffe began their air raids on London as Emmy took her first steps towards her dream. With resentment in her heart, Emmy again assumes responsibility for her sister as both girls are forced to evacuate to the British countryside. Meissner’s writing dramatically portrays the mother/teenage daughter drama that unfolds. While I empathized with Emmy from the beginning, my heart began to soften towards her mother as events unfolded and more of her past was revealed.
In this novel, Meissner has created a more profound connection between present day and historical events by connecting the two through a series of prolonged flashbacks. In the present day focuses on Kendra Van Zant, a young history major studying at Oxford. She conducts interviews with Isabel MacFarland about her experiences during the London Blitz. Through Isabel’s eyes the complete picture of Emmy and Julia’s lives is revealed to the reader. This captivating tale held a somber tone due to the ravages of war as well as the grief and regret that Emmy carries for much of the story.
The tone of the book was conveyed well by the voice of the narrator. Alana Kerr’s voice has a soft and melodious quality. This held my attention, but I do not feel like she capitalized on the opportunities the author offered to get really animated about the events which were unfolding. That aside, her pace and voice projection complemented the general mood of the story well.
In conclusion, I am certain that Meissner fans and historical fiction enthusiasts will enjoy Secrets of a Charmed Life. The book possesses solid writing laced with historical intrigue. For readers looking for a novel with substance, Meissner touches on God’s divine providence as well as his ability to work in and through all situations – even war and tragedy. Additionally, her characters struggle with fear, hatred, resentment, and broken dreams on the road to restoration. I give Secrets of a Charmed Life 4/5 stars.
Susan Meissner was born in San Diego, California, the second of three. She spent her childhood in just two houses.
Her first writings are a laughable collection of oddly worded poems and predictable stories she wrote when she was eight.
She attended Point Loma College in San Diego, and married her husband, Bob, who is now an associate pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves, in 1980. When she is not working on a new novel, she is directing the small groups ministries at The Church at Rancho Bernardo. She also enjoy teaching workshops on writing and dream-following, spending time with my family, music, reading great books, and traveling.