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|Format: DRM Protected ePub|
Publication Date: 2015
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 burdenone that will test her convictions and her heart.
1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against Londons 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, Emmys burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julias profound need for her sisters presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed...
Raves for Secrets of a Charmed Life
"Rich with vividly drawn characters, places, and events…Its themes of reinvention and redemption will strike a chord with readers."Booklist
"Simply told, yet powerful in its depth…This vivid, well-researched story, depicting the horrors of the Blitz, the beauty of the countryside and the heartbreak and loss of a loved one will remain in your mind long after it ends."RT Book Reviews
"This story of choices and consequences takes readers on a heartrending journey through war-torn London, the quiet Cotswolds and far-off America…[An] impressive and emotional novel."Historical Novel Society
"With vivid storytelling and lovely prose, Meissner weaves a story, told from three perspectives, of World War II and present day seamlessly."Open Book Society
Cara PutmanIndianaAge: 35-44Gender: female5 Stars Out Of 5So beautiful you will weepFebruary 20, 2015Cara PutmanIndianaAge: 35-44Gender: femaleMeets Expectations: 5Secrets of a Charmed Life is a brilliant telling of the Blitz' impact on two sisters. Wrapped inside a contemporary story, the WWII thread pools out, one beautiful thread at a time. One sister has a dream that dangles just outside of her reach. At 15, she feels much older, is treated as much older by her mother, yet is still evacuated with the school children. One choice she makes drastically impacts her future. Her 7 year old sister also makes one choice which alters both of their lives.
This story is so rich that I don't want to risk revealing anything that would steal the joy of discovery. There is beauty in ashes. The commitment of two sisters to each other. The love of a broken family. The reality of a world at war. The challenges of lives broken to the point where healing isn't guaranteed. Yet in the darkest moments there are flashes of hope. Moments of redemption.
This book is perfect for readers who love stories filled with real characters confronted with real life told in a lyrical voice where the language used makes you want to weep from its beauty.
KathleenMissouriAge: Over 65Gender: female5 Stars Out Of 5London Blitz in the early 1940s. A history comes alive to 2015February 3, 2015KathleenMissouriAge: Over 65Gender: femaleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5Monday, February 2, 2015
Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner, 2015
"Our life is what our thoughts make it."
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Upon reading the last paragraph revelation of Part One, Chapter One; yes, I am here for keeps!
Wordsmith Susan Meissner captures historical fiction in a way that readers will be a recipient firsthand with interviewer Kendra Van Zant, as an elderly woman reveals her pain and remembrance in the throngs of war and its effects upon those near to her heart. An impact to me was the sweet longing of hoped-for children fulfilled for Charlotte Havelock, the woman who took in the two sisters in the story during the evacuation of the children from the terrors of the London Blitz in the early 1940s. A history comes alive to 2015; actions considered together, unable to be undone, whether originating from self or others.
~* Quotes *~
"Fear does not start to fade until you take the step that you think you can't."
"There are days that are neither good nor bad. There is a kind of day that is something else entirely. On those days, you are restless for something. And that fidgety feeling doesnt make your good days bad or your bad days good. It just makes you hungry."
"Truth is a strange companion. It devastates one moment and enthralls the next. But it never deceives. And because of that, in the end, it comforts."
"If I know anything about time, it is that it stretches to walk with you when you grieve. The rest of the world may zoom past at breakneck speed, but when you are learning to live with loss, time slows to the pace of your breathing."
The reminiscence of the teller brought to the present, is it accurate through her point of view? From London to the Cotswolds, the excursion was as bewildering to those sent and those selecting within a distanced countryside, hoping for safety and acceptance. During sirens, blackout curtains, and the fear of demolition, Emmeline Downtree desires to resume her post as a hoped-for designer apprentice connected to Mrs. Crofton's London Primrose Bridal shop. Emmy sketches bride dresses hoping to create a future clear from the life she has known. Her younger sister Julia just wants to be where Emmy is, protected and cared for, the only stability she has really known. Connect with the perils and dreams, set aside to what is.
Susan Meissner has brought a true glimpse of a war-torn country and the devastation brought forth for decades; faades covering a turbulent time.
I have loved reading Susan Meissner's then and now novels ~ her two time period stories. My first reading became a favorite ~ Lady in Waiting, about the two Janes... and Lucy (needing her own continued story). I like the connection made between the past and the present, in a tangible way. Susan's novels bring me right in to walk near them.
***Thank you to author Susan Meissner for inviting me to be a part of her pre-read team and sending me an Advance Reader Copy of Secrets of a Charmed Life. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***
countrybear52Auburn, INAge: 55-65Gender: female5 Stars Out Of 5A Story of Love, Guilt, Forgiveness & Second ChancesJanuary 11, 2015countrybear52Auburn, INAge: 55-65Gender: femaleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5Susan Meissner has a wonderful talent of creating a story that spans different eras. In Secrets of a Charmed Life she weaves present day together with WWII London during the Blitz. She held me captive from the the beginning to the very last page. But then every book I have read by Ms. Meissner has held me captive until the end.
The story begins in present day when an American reporter named Kendra Van Zant visits a cottage in the Cotswolds, England to interview a survivor of the London Blitz. The present day portion of the book is written in first person. My first thought was, 'oh, no, not first person' as I have never been a big fan of reading books written in the first person point of view. However, it works very well in this book as we only visit present day a few times during the story and being in first person brings the reader back to present day.
The historical portion of Secrets of a Charmed Life takes place in London during the Blitz of WWII. I had heard of the Blitz but never realized how terrible it was for the families living in London. Families were torn apart. Anyone with children were forced to evacuate their children to foster homes in the English countryside. It had to be terrible watching your children board a train not knowing whether you would see them again, or as a child being sent away from your parents not knowing if you would ever see them again. Ms. Meissner created an emotional separation of the main characters, Emmeline (Emmy) Downtree and her little sister Julia from their mother Annie. I shed a few tears and when that happens I know I have been drawn into the story.
The girls find a wonderful foster home with an older lady, Charlotte Havelock and her sister Rose. Unfortunately, 15 year old Emmy believes herself to be an adult and she has a dream to fulfill. A dream to create beautiful wedding dresses. She decides to leave and return to London to facilitate making her dreams come true. However, her sister Julia finds out and demands to leave with her. Once back in London, Emmy leaves young 7-year old Julia alone in their mother's apartment. Bombs begin to fall on London and when Emmy is finally able to get back to the apartment, Julia is gone. This propels the story forward taking Emmy on a journey to find her sister. I can only imagine what Emmy and her mother felt while looking for young Julia. I'm sure Julia blamed herself while fearing the worst.
I enjoyed this book so very much and would truly love to share more of the story line with you but that would supply too many spoilers which I cannot do. I will say that this is a story of love, guilt, forgiveness and second chances all set against the backdrop of war. It is a book that is filled with historical information during a dark time in London's history. I learned so much about the Blitz and felt so sorry for the families that lived through that period of time.
Ms. Meissner's writing is stellar and I always look forward to reading anything with her name on the cover. The amount of research she does shows in the excellence of the story.
I would highly recommend Secrets of a Charmed Life to anyone who enjoys reading Historical Fiction. Please note that while most of Ms. Meissner's books can be classified in the Christian genre, Secrets of a Charmed Life, due to certain relationships, does not.
On a 5-Star scale = 5 HUGE stars!!!!!
I would like to thank Susan Meissenr for my Advanced Readers Copy. I received it for free to read and give my honest review, which I have done.
MauriKansasAge: 45-54Gender: female5 Stars Out Of 5Another fascinating book by Susan MeissnerNovember 22, 2014MauriKansasAge: 45-54Gender: femaleThis is one of those books that stays in my mind after reading it. Written in the author's usual style of interspersing historical and contemporary storylines, it tells the story of two young sisters who are evacuated from London to the Cotswolds in 1940. This World War II era novel is unique for its emphasis on what England's children endured. One of my favorite lines in the book is said by Isabel to Kendra. Isabel is speaking of her mother: "I want her to see that I understand there are no secrets to a charmed life. There is just the simple truth that you must forgive yourself for only being able to make your own choices, and no one else's."
SECRETS OF A CHARMED LIFE is a story of choices, how those choices ripple out to affect others, and having to deal with the consequences.
I highly recommend it.
Sarah Thomas4 Stars Out Of 5Almost PerfectNovember 21, 2014Sarah ThomasQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 4This book ALMOST made my list of best books I've ever read. I've rarely been so swallowed up in a story since I was ten and read the Little House series. Susan did a masterful job of making me care about Emmy and Julia and then, well, stringing me along on a horrific ride through the London Blitz.
And then. And then we came to the last section of the book presented as journal entries and although there was no way I was going to quit reading at that point, the story lost its momentum. I no longer had a front row seat to the action. And that action included the moment I'd scrambled through war-torn England to reach. It was a good ending, I was satisfied with how the story turned out, but I felt robbed of the chance to be present for the climatic moment.
I wouldn't have minded so much if the book hadn't been so incredibly good.
I still HIGHLY recommend this book, I just wish I could have been there when . . . well, you'd better read it for yourself.