Published by Harper Muse on November 2, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
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Uncovering a dark family secret sends one woman through the history of Britain’s World War II spy network and glamorous 1930s Paris to save her family’s reputation.
Caroline Payne thinks it’s just another day of work until she receives a call from Mat Hammond, an old college friend and historian. But pleasantries are cut short. Mat has uncovered a scandalous secret kept buried for decades: In World War II, Caroline’s British great-aunt betrayed family and country to marry her German lover.
Determined to find answers and save her family’s reputation, Caroline flies to her family’s ancestral home in London. She and Mat discover diaries and letters that reveal her grandmother and great-aunt were known as the “Waite sisters.” Popular and witty, they came of age during the interwar years, a time of peace and luxury filled with dances, jazz clubs, and romance. The buoyant tone of the correspondence soon yields to sadder revelations as the sisters grow apart, and one leaves home for the glittering fashion scene of Paris, despite rumblings of a coming world war.
Each letter brings more questions. Was Caroline’s great-aunt actually a traitor and Nazi collaborator, or is there a more complex truth buried in the past? Together, Caroline and Mat uncover stories of spies and secrets, love and heartbreak, and the events of one fateful evening in 1941 that changed everything.
In this rich historical novel from award-winning author Katherine Reay, a young woman is tasked with writing the next chapter of her family’s story. But Caroline must choose whether to embrace a love of her own and proceed with caution if her family’s decades-old wounds are to heal without tearing them even further apart.
Praise for The London House:
“Carefully researched, emotionally hewn, and written with a sure hand, The London House is a tantalizing tale of deeply held secrets, heartbreak, redemption, and the enduring way that family can both hurt and heal us. I enjoyed it thoroughly.” —Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author of The Forest of Vanishing Stars and The Book of Lost Names
“An expertly researched and marvelously paced treatise on the many variants of courage and loyalty . . . Arresting historical fiction destined to thrill fans of Erica Roebuck and Pam Jenoff.” —Rachel McMillan author of The London Restoration and The Mozart Code
A stand-alone split-time novelPartially epistolary: the historical storyline is told through letters and journalsBook length: approximately 102,000 wordsIncludes discussion questions for book clubs
The London House is an incredible novel. While it’s not your typical dual-time novel, it does span two different time periods, and it’s historical aspect is strictly epistolary and beautifully depicted.
In the present day, Caroline Payne is given information about her great-aunt Caro. Information that challenges everything she, and the rest of her family, ever knew about her aunt.
Determined to find out what really happens, she goes to London, to the London House.
There, she reads through old letters and diaries, ones that belonged to her grandma Margo, and Margo’s twin sister Caro. Through those pages, you are taken back World War II, a time of tremendous turmoil, not only in London, but also in Paris. When Margo contracts scarlet fever, Caro is sent away to a boarding school, and after that she never really returns home again. She follows her passions to work in fashion design, and takes a job at the prestigious Schiap shop. This places her smack dab in the middle of the action.
Back to present day, Caroline wants to find out what really happened with Caro. You see, Caroline’s father’s family, has never EVER talked about Caro. They believed her to be a traitor. After all, she sent a letter to her sister Margo, telling her she ran away with her Nazi lover. Then, not wanting a scandal, the family disowned her. Caroline’s dad grew up being told the story that aunt Caro died from polio at a young age. When Caroline wants to dig into the past and find out what really happened, her dad tells her not to, and is determined that it would be better to leave the past in the past. Caroline decides to go ahead anyway, and her trip to London, as she reads all those old letters and papers, brings a lot more questions into the mix.
In addition to the mystery of their family history, there is also the added dimension of lots of family dysfunction. Painful past, difficult times, deaths, and more. Katherine Reay has written this in a thought-provoking manner, and I found this story very relatable. I loved getting to know the present day Caroline, and seeing how she was able to work through some of her own relationship issues as she read about Margo and Caro’s lives.