Always in My Heart, Ellie Dean

As the Japanese begin their assault on Singapore, Sarah Fuller is forced to leave her parents and fiancé, Philip, behind. The long journey to England is fraught with danger, and Sarah and her sister Jane don’t even know if their great-aunt is alive, let alone waiting for them.

They arrive in Cliffehaven, on the south coast of England, and here Sarah must find work to support them both. When the Women’s Timber Corps takes over the local estate, Sarah enlists as a lumberjill.

But as time goes on and the news of events in Singapore worsen, Sarah fears she will never see Philip and her parents again…

Publisher: Arrow, August 2013
Reviewer: Samantha B

The book begins in 1940’s Malaya, setting the tropical scene of a well to do British family – The Fullers -and their charmed life running a rubber plantation. Daughter Sarah is proposed to by her sweetheart Philip, but her jubilation is short-lived as the Japanese launch their attack on Singapore the same evening and Philip together with her father Jock head to Kuala Lumpur for an emergency defence league meeting….will they return? The book then takes you back to England – Beach View Boarding house, Cliffehaven where Peggy Reilly has just had her baby ‘Daisy’ – the motley crew of inhabitants are introduced, one of whom is elderley Cordelia, taken under Peggy’s wing and later revealed to be Sarah’s long lost aunt. The scene is set for Sarah and her younger sister Jane to travel to England and play their part in the war effort…..Sarah signs up as a lumberjill, but with her parents still in Malaya and Philips whereabouts uncertain…..will life ever be the same again?

Whilst this book chugs along steadily, creating what feels like a fairly realistic depiction of World War 2 from varying perspectives, it just wasn’t a page turner for me. The writing style felt dated which may have been a deliberate attempt to add authenticity to the subject matter, but I felt the narrative almost too polite to portray its characters as anything more than one dimensional. There is the odd injection of humour – Peggy’s husband Jim getting blown off the toilet during an air attack being one of them. However there are too many unanswered questions and loose ends that fail to be tied by the end. All in all an inoffensive read but not a gripping one.

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