Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for She Came to Stay by Eleni Kyriacou to celebrate its publication in paperback on 25th February. If you can’t wait that long, it’s already available in ebook, audiobook and hardcover format. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Hodder & Stoughton for my digital review copy via NetGalley. Do also check out the post by my tour buddy for today, Niamh at Mrs Book Burney.
About the Book
In a city of strangers, who can you trust?
London, 1952. Dina Demetriou has travelled from Cyprus for a better life. She’s certain that excitement, adventure and opportunity are out there, waiting – if only she knew where to look. Her passion for clothes and flair for sewing land her a job repairing the glittering costumes at the notorious Pelican Revue. It’s here that she befriends the mysterious and beautiful Bebba.
With her bleached-blonde hair and an appetite for mischief, Bebba is like no Greek Dina has ever met before. She guides Dina around the fashionable shops, bars and clubs of Soho, and Dina finally feels life has begun. But Bebba has a secret. And as thick smog brings the city to a standstill, the truth emerges with devastating results. Dina’s new life now hangs by a thread.
What will be left when the fog finally clears? And will Dina be willing to risk everything to protect her future?
Format: Paperback (432 pages) Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: 25th February 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction
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Switching between the first person point of view of Dina and the third person point of view of her friend, Bebba, She Came To Stay cleverly combines two elements. The first is a vivid picture of daily immigrant life in 1950s London: the poor housing, the unstable work, and the streets filled with smog that has the ability to seep through into buildings. Added to that are the challenges of learning a new language and integrating into a culture very different from village life back in Cyprus. Indeed, Dina’s over-protective brother, Peter, clings to what he sees as his traditional role, arranging a suitable marriage for Dina whereas she views their move as an opportunity for independence.
It’s no wonder that Dina is attracted to the free-spirited and unpredictable Bebba. There’s a particularly amusing scene in which Bebba and Dina hoodwink the assistants in a famous department store. I also enjoyed seeing Dina’s growing delight at the buzz of Soho life – the coffee bars, the jazz clubs and the colourful characters who work, perform, or occupy the tables at the Pelican nightclub. The author certainly creates a great sense of time and place throughout the book.
Things start to unravel when Dina, having introduced Bebba to Peter, begins to feel increasingly isolated. “They were the two people I loved the most in the world, and yet when they were together something unnerved me. What was it? I couldn’t decide. And then…it struck me. They were behaving as if I didn’t exist.” Eventually, what started as japes turns into something much darker and more dangerous. It’s at this point the thriller element of the book comes to the fore as Bebba’s past threatens to catch up with her. The story is increasingly punctuated by moments of melodrama, certainly justifying the publisher’s description of She Came To Stay as “a page-turning novel of friendship, secrets and lies”.
In three words: Immersive, spirited, dramatic
Try something similar: A Little London Scandal by Miranda Emmerson
About the Author
Eleni Kyriacou is an award-winning editor and journalist. She has worked in various roles across publishing and her writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Observer, Marie Claire and Grazia, among others. She’s edited national magazines and is now freelance. Eleni lives in London. She Came to Stay is her first novel.