Laurel was just 16 years old when she witnessed a violent confrontation between her mother, Dorothy, and a stranger at their country home. The stranger and her mother appeared to know one another. Laurel believed she knew everything about her mother, but after this she wondered. She never asked her mother what really happened that day, and it haunted her most of her life. Now, Dorothy is in a nursing home and is in failing health. Laurel thinks she is running out of time to discover the truth. She begins to piece together the story based on what little Dorothy will tell her, and a trunk she finds in the attic full of her mother’s things.
The book jumps back and forth from Laurel’s search in the present day to Dorothy’s (Dolly’s) story of living in London during the Blitz of WWII. Dolly is just a young girl when she leaves her parents behind and moves to London. She has a boyfriend, Jimmie, but dreams of moving up in society. She’s been watching the lady across the street, Vivien, and thinks Vivien has a perfect life. Dolly desperately wants to be Vivien’s friend, and eventually she finds a way to make this happen. What happens between Dolly, Vivien, and Jimmie will answer all of Laurel’s questions.
I found the premise of Morton’s book to be fascinating, even if it wasn’t wholly original. Children often find out when they grow up that they don’t know their parents as well as they think they do. There is always that stage when you realize they had a completely different life before having children. This is probably truer during times of war. Everyone is changed by their experiences in those extreme situations. It also seems many people take the opportunity to reinvent themselves during or after a war. Fans of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and The Last Letter From Your Lover by JoJo Moyes, as well as Morton’s other books, will really enjoy this novel.