Desert Isle Keeper
The Whispers of War
The Whispers of War is Julia Kelly’s second novel, a deftly plotted story of female friendship set against the backdrop of the early days of World War II. Its well-drawn characters and strong sense of place make it a book that is sure to appeal to fans of historical fiction everywhere.
Nora, Hazel and Marie have been the best of friends since their boarding school days, and now, years after bidding farewell to the schoolroom, the three women are as close as they ever were. When war breaks out in 1939, they are determined to stand by one another no matter what difficulties they are presented with.
Marie was born in Germany, but was sent to England by her parents when she was only twelve, and she has absolutely no desire to return to the country of her birth. Instead, she lives with relatives and works as a secretary for the German department of a large university. In every way that counts, Marie considers herself to be British, but she knows the government might have other ideas. More than anything, Marie fears being branded an enemy of the country she loves and being forced into an internment camp. She’s heard stories from those who suffered this fate during the Great War, and she’s willing to do whatever she has to in order to remain free.
On the outside, Hazel has the perfect life. She helps to run one of London’s most sought-after matchmaking services, and her own marriage to a government official is the stuff storybooks are made of. Unfortunately for Hazel, her life isn’t nearly as perfect as it appears. She has suffered numerous miscarriages since she and Nathaniel first got married, and she’s beginning to wonder if motherhood is really on the cards for her at all. Nathaniel has grown distant over the past few months, and Hazel doesn’t know what to make of this change in his behaviour – and there’s a small part of her that wonders if allowing him to pull away from her might be the safest thing to do.
Nora has spent her adult life struggling to get out from under the expectations of her upper-class family. She’s not the least bit interested in finding a husband and settling into a life of charitable works and society parties. Instead, Nora longs to live life on her own terms. She wants to make a real difference to the war effort, something more than serving as an overworked secretary. She’s quick-witted, tenacious and determined not to be shoved into the role the world seems more than ready to foist upon her.
As political tensions continue to mount, Nora, Hazel, and Marie are forced into a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a government official who is suspicious of Marie’s true intentions. He believes her to be a German operative, and he’s desperate to gather enough proof to arrest her and keep her locked up until the end of the war. The three women are equally determined to stay one step ahead of him, even if it means breaking the law.
The best thing about The Whispers of War is the relationship shared by our three heroines. I love the way the author is able to bring each of the women to life, giving her distinct personality traits that allow her to stand out from the rest of the cast of characters. No one feels like a cardboard cut-out, and the deep and abiding love each woman feels for the other two shines through on every page. It is these relationships that set this novel apart from the countless other books set in this period of history.
There are hints of romance woven throughout the story, but they definitely take a back seat to the rest of the plot. This didn’t bother me at all, but it could put some readers off, especially if you go into it expecting the romance to be front and center. Hazel, Nora, and Marie grapple with all sorts of deep emotional baggage, and the glimmers of romance added the perfect amount of joy to what could have otherwise been quite a heavy read.
It’s clear the author did quite a bit of research before writing The Whispers of War, and I applaud her ability to bring this dark period in history to life so vividly. This really is the kind of story that transports its readers to another place and time, allowing us to leave our real lives behind for a few hours. I loved every moment I spent in the world Ms. Kelly has created, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for her next book.