For my second post of the day I’m delighted to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for fantastic dual timeline novel The Secret Diary by Anna Stuart. Thank you to Sarah Hardy and Bookouture for giving me the opportunity to read and review this heartwarming story that is steeped in a history I knew very little about. I loved it!
About the book:
Two women. One house. And a wartime secret that spans decades…
Norfolk, 1945: Only a few months ago Nancy Jones was fighting for her country as a gunner girl. Now she’s struggling to adjust to her responsibilities as a gamekeeper’s wife. After a whirlwind romance, Nancy is deeply in love with her handsome husband Joe but there is still so much they don’t know about each other. When a secret from Nancy’s war years threatens to resurface, will the terrible truth about the worst night of her life shatter their new marriage?
Norfolk, 2019: Devastated by the sudden loss of her husband, Lorna Haynes escapes to the beautiful but crumbling Gamekeeper’s Cottage. There, she stumbles upon a locked room. When she enters, it’s like going back in time. A soldier’s uniform hangs on the back of the door, the flowery wallpaper still intact, the spindle of the record player frozen and ready to play. At the back of the room, Lorna discovers a red, leather-bound diary in a hidden compartment of a desk drawer.
As Lorna battles with heartache, she takes comfort in reading the ink-stained words. Turning the pages of the old book, she learns of the incredible bravery of the woman who lived in the house decades before her. And discovers a shocking wartime secret that will change the course of her own life…
Fans of The Nightingale, The Alice Network, and Lilac Girls will love this unforgettable, poignant tale of love, loss and courage during the darkest days of war.
Anna Stuart lives in Derbyshire with her campervan-mad husband, two hungry teenagers and a slightly loopy dog. She was hooked on books from the moment she first opened one in her cot so is thrilled to now have several of her own to her name.
Having studied English literature at Cambridge university, she took an enjoyable temporary trip into the ‘real world’ as a factory planner, before returning to her first love and becoming an author.
History has also always fascinated her. Living in an old house with a stone fireplace, she often wonders who sat around it before her and is intrigued by how actively the past is woven into the present, something she likes to explore in her novels.
Anna loves the way that writing lets her ‘try on’ so many different lives, but her favourite part of the job is undoubtedly hearing from readers.
You can reach her on Facebook @annastuartauthor or Twitter @annastuartbooks.
The Secret Diary by Anna Stuart is a dual timeline novel that switches between post war 1945 and modern day 2019. Set in Norfolk, it tells the story of two very different women living a lifetime apart in the same Gamekeepers Cottage. Devastated by the sudden loss of her husband, Lorna escapes with her two children to her mother and stepfather’s home in Norfolk. There she is shown into an annex that is like stepping back in time. Everything is exactly as it would have been back in 1945 and, as a history teacher, Lorna is instantly transfixed by it. It is here that she finds a red, leather bound diary in a hidden compartment at the back of a desk drawer. Seeking comfort from within its pages, Lorna finds herself drawn into the post war world of Nancy, a former gunner girl who is the keeper of a shocking wartime secret that will change the course of Lorna’s own life in the present.
In 1945 Nancy is struggling to adjust to life as a gamekeepers wife after her thrilling experiences as a gunner girl during the war. Nancy is deeply in love with her husband Joe, who she married after a whirlwind romance, but there is still so much they don’t know about each other. Unwilling to leave her war years behind and settle back into a life of domesticity, Nancy urges her new husband to teach her the skills he promised to when they got married, much to the chagrin of her very traditional in-laws. But then a terrible secret from Nancy’s war years threatens to resurface, putting her newfound happiness into even more jeopardy…
The Secret Diary is a book richly steeped in wartime history, focussing on the bravery of the gunner girls, a fascinating element of World War 2 that I knew very little about. Women like Nancy and her fellow ‘Ack Ack girls’ played such an important role in the war that returning to the life they had before is unimaginable, their hard won independence not something they’re willing to give up lightly.
I love a book with a dual timeline and this one works incredibly well, moving seamlessly between the two as the story from the past is slowly revealed as Lorna progresses through the long hidden diary of the newlywed Nancy. Both stories stand up in their own right, with Lorna’s grief at the loss of her husband every bit as palpable as the secrets from the past.
Anna Stuart’s writing is gorgeous, bringing the lives of these two very different women vividly to life as they try to overcome the hurdles life has thrown their way. Touching on themes of love, loss and courage, this poignant tale captivated me from the very first page and I did not want this fantastic book to end!
A heartwarming and emotional read that I would highly recommend, especially to those readers who are as fascinated by the historical aspect of this story as I was.
The Secret Diary by Anna Stuart is available to purchase now.
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