Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The English Wife by Adrienne Chinn. And what a stop it is with so many fabulous book bloggers joining in! Do check out their reviews using the Twitter hashtag #TheEnglishWife.
My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to One More Chapter for my review copy via NetGalley.
About the Book
Two women, a world apart. A secret waiting to be discovered…
VE Day 1945. As victory bells ring out across the country, war bride Ellie Burgess’ happiness is overshadowed by grief. Her charismatic Newfoundlander husband Thomas is still missing in action. Until a letter arrives explaining Thomas is back at home on the other side of the Atlantic recovering from his injuries. Travelling to a distant country to live with a man she barely knows is the bravest thing Ellie has ever had to do. But nothing can prepare her for the harsh realities of her new home…
September 11th 2001. Sophie Parry is on a plane to New York on the most tragic day in the city’s history. While the world watches the news in horror, Sophie’s flight is rerouted to a tiny town in Newfoundland and she is forced to seek refuge with her estranged aunt Ellie. Determined to discover what it was that forced her family apart all those years ago, newfound secrets may change her life forever…
Format: Paperback (400 pages) Publisher: One More Chapter
Publication date: 23rd June 2020 Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Find The English Wife on Goodreads
What sounds from the book description like a dual timeline story is actually a triple, if not quadruple, timeline story although most of the first part of the book takes place either in WW2 Norwich or in Newfoundland in 2001. Some concentration is needed to keep track of the different storylines as the chapters switch frequently back and forth in time. However, it’s well worth the effort as you’re soon drawn into what is an increasingly multi-layered story.
In essence, all roads lead to the quaintly named Tippy’s Tickle in Newfoundland. Coincidence or fate? Ellen arrived there in 1946 as a war bride to join her husband, Thomas, and Sophie, Ellen’s niece, finds herself there when the plane in which she’s travelling to New York is rerouted to Newfoundland due to the 9/11 terror attacks. As to how Sophie ends up in Tippy’s Tickle, well, that’s less “of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine” from Casablanca as “of all the tea queues in all the world he ends up in mine”.
In dual time stories I sometimes find myself more invested in the story set in the past than in the present. This wasn’t the case with The English Wife. Not that the events that see young Ellen travelling across the world from her home in Norwich aren’t compelling, it’s just that the reader pretty much knows the trajectory of her story from the book description. Although, having said that, there are secrets to be discovered even there and the author keeps the reader waiting quite a while until these are revealed.
Sophie’s unplanned – and unwanted – stopover in Newfoundland in 2001 is an obstacle in her otherwise organised-to-the-last-detail life. (Her determination to get to New York for an interview reminded me of the wonderful 1945 film I Know Where I’m Going, in which Joan Webster, played by Wendy Hiller, is prevented by bad weather from making the crossing to the island of Kiloran.) Sophie soon falls under the spell of Tippy’s Tickle and who could blame her because there’s a lovely sense of community about the place and it is surrounded by beautiful, rugged landscape. Although outsiders are known as “Come-From-Aways”, its inhabitants are welcoming and hospitable as well as accepting of difference. It was good to see diverse characters playing such a part in the story. As it happens, Tippy’s Tickle isn’t the only thing to cast a spell on Sophie during her stay. However, sometimes things don’t work out the way you want.
Ten years later – to the day – Sophie is travelling back to Tippy’s Tickle on an assignment for the architectural practice for which she works. They are planning a lavish leisure development – hotel, golf course, the works. If you know the film Local Hero [Ed: that’s enough of the film references], you’ll have an idea that the plans may not be greeted with universal enthusiasm, especially as it affects people to whom Sophie has grown close. For some, it threatens their sense of security and a way of life that is all they have ever known; something they will do anything to prevent. How will Sophie negotiate this dilemma? You’ll need to read the book to find out.
I can’t finish this review without commenting on the fabulous insight into Newfoundland culture the book provides, including colloquialisms such as being “gut-foundered” (hungry).
The English Wife is a skilfully-crafted, multi-layered story about family secrets, missed opportunities, second chances and finding out what’s really important in life.
In three words: Sweeping, dramatic, emotional
Try something similar: The Sea Gate by Jane Johnson
About the Author
Adrienne Chinn was born in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, grew up in Quebec, and eventually made her way to London, England after a career as a journalist. In England she worked as a TV and film researcher before embarking on a career as an interior designer, lecturer, and writer.
When not up a ladder or at the computer, she can usually be found rummaging through flea markets or haggling in the Marrakech souk. Her second novel, The English Wife – a timeslip story set in World War II England and contemporary Newfoundland – is published in June 2020. Her debut novel, The Lost Letter from Morocco, was published by Avon Books UK in 2019. She is currently writing her third novel, The Photographer’s Daughters, the first of a 3-book series, to be published in 2021.