July 2010, Allison and Busby
528 pages, Paperback
Historical, Romance, fiction
Family saga (of sorts), tragedy, family secrets, feeling unwanted, the horrors of war, strange goings on at night, life post World War two, sense of belonging, humour, 1 adult scene,
Summary from Allison and Busby
Lily’s Journey is a 1950s saga set in Dartmoor.
When fifteen-year-old Lily Hayes loses her mother, she is sent from London to live with her estranged father in the wilds of Dartmoor. In a remote cottage, Lily struggles to adjust to her new life with the dour Sidney Latham. As his gruff manner slowly thaws, Lily learns some of the secrets of her family’s past: the woman she grew up with was her grandmother, and her real mother and two brothers were killed in a bomb-blast.
But Sidney has more secrets to tell, ones which will devastate the young girl who no longer knows who she is. Though Lily’s life has taken a dramatic turn for the worse, there are some things she is grateful for – the fact that she has met the handsome and charming Edwin Franfield being top of the list. But heartbreak is not far away, and a stranger with troubles of his own becomes her surprising saviour.
As I read the blurb, I was pretty excited, because it sounded like a girl's version of Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian. It might be a bit unfair to compare it, because they are different genres. But Lily's father is so grumpy! My word, if Lily had been a quiet girl she wouldn't have sat it out. From the very first sentence I could feel the fiery nature of Lily, which matches her hair colour. Not that you'd want to tell her that! I loved how backwards Sidney's place was - I mean that in the kindest of ways. Lily had the same reaction as I would have done to using a chamber pot, she is a girl on a mission when her father says he'd be surprised if she could master the oven (or whatever they use for cooking - I've forgotten the name of it). Not only did Lily persevere with that, she persevered in trying to forge a relationship with Sidney. That time when she knew nothing about Sidney was an innocent one, for the secrets really do tear her world apart.
With one thing and another Lily moves out and becomes quite attached to a local family. It was a bit predictable that she'd develop a crush on one of the sons, as was the consequence of that crush (sorry for the spoiler, but it really was obvious!) I don't think it was intended to be funny, but recognising where that plot thread was going had me laughing quite a bit at Lily's naievity. It was easy to work out who she ended up with too. The predictability doesn't take anything away from the story, it was fun anticipating how Lily would react next as the story continued.
There is a romantic element, which is mostly very mild. I don't know whether I've got the wrong idea of what the 1950's were like, but I was a bit surprised when Lily was allowed to look after the sick male (I'm not saying who) on her own. I was equally surprised that they took their relationship further before marriage, especially knowing other factors in Lily's life.
I really enjoyed this book, and I'm going to treasure it. It might be one I recommend to some in my family and for my friends. There are a lot of dark moments, but I can relate to that, which is what makes Lily so appealing, as well as her attitude which is similar to my own. Being able to connect to the protagonist is important in every book. It's not just the characters, but the also the setting of the book. I love hearing about lives which aren't dominated by electricity, which use older methods of cooking and cleaning. I was fascinated with learning more on the rationing that was still in place, how they had a bath (or not!), how they viewed learning to drive.
Lily's mostly sensible head and her bubbly nature will let you into the lives of post war England, which wasn't as free from the memories of war as some would like. Lily gets to learn she's not alone, that life can be really harsh, but those moments are soothed a little with compassion and love.
Make sure you check out Tania's website, where there is information about all her other books.
For a story full that is full of family secrets and twists of fortune, try The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim.
One book that I love for the details of the era is Daughter of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli
Although they are about different eras, and in different countries, both these books have strong willed heroines, who suffer and manage to come out the other side smiling.