A while back I ventured over to GoodReads. Initially I only planned to leave a pre-publication review for an author I follow, but while I was there I found the Giveaways section and threw my hat in the ring for a variety of books, both by authors I knew and by some I’d never heard of.
Sometimes it was the cover of the book that caught my attention and sometimes, less often, it was the little blurb describing the book. Most were by authors I’d never heard of. Over time, I wound up with a number of additions to my physical TBR pile, as well as a long list of titles in my GoodReads “Want to Read” list.
When I recently rediscovered the joy of the public library, I armed myself with that GoodReads list and started checking out the titles that I could find. As expected, some of them fell into the “swing and a miss” category. A few didn’t even make it past the “I’ll give you three chapters to catch my interest” milestone. One recent title, however, not only lived up to my initial expectations, it greatly surpassed them.
It was the cover of Treacherous is the Night by Anna Lee Huber that initially caught my interest, but it was the story that had me reading it, buying my own copy on Amazon, and then reading it again, as seems to be my current habit for books I read and like.
The book, which is actually the second of the Verity Kent Mystery series, is set in 1919 England after the close of World War I. While it’s a mystery, what really kept me engaged and turning the pages was the relationship between Verity Kent and her husband Sidney.
For most of their marriage the two of them have been separated – him off fighting in the war or presumed dead and her in London, doing her part to help the war effort, including some dangerous work for the Secret Service.
The book starts when the war is finally over and done and the two of them are finally reunited. The author does a wonderful job of portraying just how difficult it is for them to move forward together, no matter how much they want to. Before the war they had been innocent newlyweds, but after, they’ve both seen and done things they don’t want to think about or talk about or let the other know about. They want to stay together but they aren’t at all the people they were before, and throughout the course of the book, they have to learn how to navigate their new reality. The mystery plot-line of the book served as a vehicle for them to do that, as well as providing and interesting view of the war and its aftermath.
From a historical perspective, there were bits and pieces that painted a very vivid and insightful view of the times. The quote below is Verity, explaining what it was like when she was let go from her job, once the war was over and the men started coming back:
“The adjustment had been startling. One minute I was necessary, bustling here and there, reading intelligence reports with classified information from across the globe, and consulted about my opinion. In the next I was redundant, dispensable, horribly idle, and absolutely at loose ends.”
I’m sure the women who worked in the shipyards and other industrial jobs during World War 2 had the same feelings when they were let go as Verity and the thousands of women who worked in the munitions factories or hospitals or as Land Girls did. They filled a need and then, suddenly that need went away and they had to adjust to a new reality.
This book made me think yet again that I would have learned far more in history class if they’d given us novels to read instead of yawn-worthy text books.
The quote below from later in the book made me think of something my dad had said back when I was a teenager. We had been driving somewhere and were waiting at a stop light. Dad looked at the driver in the car next to us (who looked to be Japanese) and said, “40 years ago I’d have been trying to kill him, and him me,” and then we drove on. It was the only comment my dad ever made to me regarding his time in the war and it has stuck with me ever since.
“I was not so narrow-minded as to not recognize that many of the enemy were good men caught up in the same cog of war that had entrapped us all. Men I would probably have befriended under other circumstances”.
Treacherous is the Night provided me with a fascinating glimpse into post-war Europe and introduced me to two characters that I wanted to root for and know more about. I liked it so well that I went out and bought both it and the first book in the series, This Side of Murder, and then read them in order. While reading the second book first did spoil one surprise from book one, both books really stand on their own and can be read independently.
Book three in the series comes out next year and I’m curious what plans the author has for Verity and Sidney next.
In the meantime, does anyone have any suggestions for other books set around this same time period? I find I’ve developed a certain fondness for post-WWI England.
Well, these sound like books I need to get, and before my trip abroad, too. I’m always looking for good reading material while traveling and with the itinerary we have planned, there will be LOTS of time for reading. Off to Amazon!
Hope you enjoy them, Justine.
Oh, those sound really great! I love that husband/wife dynamic; it isn’t treated very often in the books I wind up reading.
I know you know this already, but P.G. Wodehouse is great for that post-war era stuff. So light and fluffy, but based in a lot of details. It becomes a lot more poignant when you realize that Wodehouse and his characters are often actively trying to ignore the ugliness that went on a few years previously.
Also, Dorothy Sayers explores the wounded soldier’s psyche with her novels about Peter Wimsey. I don’t know how many writers explored the ladies’ side of things after a war! A lot of famous women writers wound up helping in the various wars — Dorothy Parker was also a war correspondent (I think she’s most famous for her reporting on the war in Spain). She also had stories on the American side about women helping with the war effort — sometimes very cynical stories.
Thanks for the reminder, Michaeline. Both P.G. Wodehouse and Dorothy Sayers are buried somewhere in my TBR pile. I will have to move them up to the top!
What about Mary Wesley’s The Camomile Lawn? That’s set around World War II and it’s very English and stylish. Mary Wesley wrote it when she was in her 70s. She lived through that period and (I believe) had a pretty racy time, so she had plenty of material to draw on. Oh–and there’s also Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate. Authentic and only lightly fictionalised English upper classes in wartime.
Thanks for the recommendations. I’ve never heard of either book, so . . . off to Amazon to look them up.
A lot of H.H. Munro’s (aka Saki) stories are set in that time period and he’s often hilarious. There’s also a series by an author named Elswyth Thane that follows two intertwined families from the American Revolution through WWII that I think you’d like, if you can find them. A big chunk of them fall into the time period between the world wars.
Thanks, Jeanne. I can see my TBR pile growing by leaps and bounds after all of today’s recommendations. If I don’t get any writing done this month, I’ll know why.
I haven’t read It, so I can’t recommend it, exactly, but Anne Perry has a mystery series set around World War I. It’s gotten good reviews on Amazon, so it might be worth checking out. I saw five books in the series, but there might be more that I missed.
I love the sound of this book however, Elizabeth. I just had a very good experience with a mystery set in 1976 in Laos shortly after the Vietnam war ended and Laos turned communist. After a string of unsatisfactory reads, I found it very entertaining. So I’m feeling more optimistic about checking out new things I’ll look into this one!
Oh, thanks. I’ll have to check out Anne Perry. Her name is familiar, but I don’t recall ever reading anything by her.