Gracie by Ellie Keaton
Review by Samantha Wilkinson
Review by Samantha Wilkinson
This book is free to download on Amazon
Seventeen year old Gracie Thompson is the eponymous heroine in this novel which follows Gracie, who lives in London with her loving family, through the run up to and outbreak of World War II. The story begins in 1937; her twin brother Stan is excited to join the Royal Air Force (RAF) Volunteer Reserves, and to train as a volunteer pilot for the war which now seems inevitable.
Gracie is in service as a lady’s maid and falls in love with her brother’s friend, Charlie, also an RAF pilot. Refused permission to marry by her father, who is still haunted by his experiences in WWI, which was still known as the ‘war to end all wars’, Gracie defies both her parents and the love of her life to join the Women’s Air Auxiliary Force (WAAF), and do her bit for the war effort.
Can her relationship with her parents and with Charlie survive? And will the pilots in her life survive the frequent dog fights?
The novel is written in third person, but from three different perspectives: those of Gracie, Charlie (the love of her life) and Miss Penelope (or Penny as she would rather be called). At the beginning of the book, the short snappy sections made it a little harder to get ‘stuck in’ than I would have liked. However the characters and the plot draw you in, and before the half way mark, I had discovered that the book was hard to put down. I do understand that the time frame covered in the novel would mean that there would be large sections of unutterable dullness if the chapters covered every last minute of the main characters' lives, so the short chapters with time between them work well to cover only the exciting parts of the plot.
Now that I have mentioned the plot… let’s be honest here. It’s a novel; it can’t possibly allow the protagonists' lives to run smoothly, or there would be no plot, there would be no novel. As a result, the chapters cover the most exciting (but not always in a good way) parts of Gracie’s life over the years running up to WWII and in the early years of the same. There are a few tense moments within the plot, and although the plot is clearly the driver for the novel, I found the characters and their reactions to the situations they found themselves in to be realistic but also in parts frustrating. To me this means that the characters are well drawn, and more importantly, believable.
A few of the chapters were written in the form of correspondence, mainly from Gracie to her good friend, Penny. I really enjoyed these; it was a good way to fill the reader in on some basic details of life in the WAAF without resorting to a lengthy and unbelievable monologue, by explaining her new life to her friend who wasn’t there and didn’t know what it was like. The author was also able to give us the background story of the new characters, friends Gracie had met on joining the WAAF, in a gossipy and light tone, which made it the type of letter that any penfriend would be glad to receive!
I particularly liked the references to real events, most notably Neville Chamberlain’s radio address to the nation at 11:15 a.m. on 3rd September 1939, in which the author has actually used the real wording for:
“...final note stating that, unless we heard from them – by 11 o’clock – that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us.”
Personally, I found that this added to the realism of the events, and made it more emotional, as I can imagine my grandparents listening to it at the time.
During the course of the novel we see fictional depictions of what would have been common events during WWII, but seem very strange to us now. This includes the orphans who escaped Europe to the UK before the war started, the air raids of the London blitz, their aftermath and the all too common human costs, the evacuation of small children from the cities to the countryside, as well as looking at how the ladies of the WAAF were treated. I can’t imagine sending my child away from me to keep her safe, but so many people had no alternative. It is the small things like these that the author has depicted, that really make you sit and think about what it must have really been like. Not something you get from every novel.
At the end of the novel, Gracie’s story is tied up, although I won’t tell you if it was a happy ending or not, but the end is left open as an introduction into the second novel of the series, Penny.
Overall, I found it easy to read, and well paced. Overall, I found it easy to read, and well paced. If I’m honest, I definitely would read other books in this series, or indeed, just by the same author.
Would I recommend this book? Yes. It’s a good story and it’s accessible. There’s an element of romance, but it is not gratuitous (something I find rather off putting in books) and there is enough going on (well there was a war on) without it being only about romance.
About the author
Ellie Keaton is Irish and used to live in London but returned to Ireland in 2012 with her children. She loves to write but it took her a long time to start publishing. She has written various non-fiction articles over the years and published in trade magazines and newspapers, but it was only in 2012 that she published her first short story. "The Wedding Dress" is about a couple who lost everything on 9/11. Ellie says that she was inspired to write it following the July 7th bombings in London. People she had known had lost their lives in both events. She then wrote two more books in the Survivor Club series: Red followed by The Fireman's Daughter. She is currently working on her fourth, Tears, Love and Laughter.
Gracie was reviewed by Samantha Wilkinson. Samantha currently lives in Cheshire with her husband, daughter and two cats. Her other hobbies include cooking, sewing, and walking.
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