Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Katherine Reay’s latest novel, The London House! You might have seen my previous post announcing a November read-along of this book on social media. Check out the #TLHral hashtag on Twitter to see the reading group’s posts & join the conversation.
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.
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Katherine Reay is the national bestselling and award-winning author of Dear Mr. Knightley, Lizzy and Jane, The Brontë Plot, A Portrait of Emily Price, The Austen Escape, and The Printed Letter Bookshop. All Katherine’s novels are contemporary stories with a bit of classical flair. Katherine holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and is a wife, mother, former marketer, and avid chocolate consumer. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine now happily resides outside Chicago, IL.
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The London House is an amazing story of truth and healing! I find Katherine Reay’s stories impress me more with every new one. This novel reads in a voice uniquely hers, with an accessible contemporary setting and a near split-time feel because of the historical letters and diaries throughout (meaning it has an epistolary element like her beloved debut, Dear Mr. Knightley!). Reay’s love of literature and its application as a source of timeless wisdom is still evident, although this story is less lit-centric than her previous titles and more focused on family legacy and influence.
Caroline is a likable and complex heroine whose depth and history parallels that of her mysterious great-aunt, Caro, in many ways. Her story is one of heart-wrenching emotion, healing, and discovery as she faces old wounds — both from her past and those which have been kept secret for generations. Caroline’s journey is encouraged by the endearing hero, Mat, who is also a catalyst for her growth in many ways. He matches her in strength and vulnerability, and watching their relationship unfold is a delight.
My favorite aspect of this story is how it is a study in history’s power to shape humanity’s perception of the past or current perspectives. While perception might be hazy and (honestly) incorrect, truth is an absolute and ultimately comes to light. The stories of Margo and Caro, and Caroline and Mat’s search in the present, all demonstrate how to trust in truth to have the final say, no matter how comforting or uncomfortable, is enough.
Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.