Skip to main content

The Light Over London

Review

The Light Over London

Today’s publishing world brings forth numerous stories about World War II, from the perspectives of the U.S. and abroad. Julia Kelly’s new novel, THE LIGHT OVER LONDON, is a colorful view of the little-known or applauded “Gunner Girls” in England.

In September 2017, Cara Hargraves buries herself in her work for an antiquities dealer in Gloucester. She becomes fascinated by artifacts discovered in an old tin from the World War II era. Clearing out the estate of the deceased Lenora Robinson has yielded valuable items of furniture, glassware and china. Among the treasures is a worn diary and a photograph of a young woman dressed in uniform. Cara feels a kinship to the diary’s owner, possibly because her own grandmother had served in the British army in the same era, and is determined to find its author.

"A well-researched and carefully written work of historical fiction, THE LIGHT OVER LONDON opens the door to daily traumas faced by London’s citizens during the war years."

The story then shifts to 1941, and readers are introduced to the writer of the diary, 19-year-old Louise Keene. Louise’s life revolves around her mother’s intent that she marry a young man when he returns from his tour of duty. However, Louise yearns to escape what she views as a nearly arranged marriage to someone for whom she doesn’t care. When her cousin, Kate, invites her to attend a dance for local girls and military men stationed near a neighboring town, Louise is reluctant but yields to the possibility of a night out. While there, she overcomes her shyness when she is introduced to Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton.

Cara immerses herself in Louise’s courtship through the diary, fascinated by the young woman’s path to escape from her Cornish village. Louise has fallen deeply in love with Paul, who receives orders to deploy to the German front. Her parents forbid her further involvement. With Kate’s help, both girls steal away to join the armed forces in London. Louise sees her duty there as her ticket to freedom and love.

Returning to the present-day story, Cara tries to bury bad memories of divorce and hurt. The diary’s mystery becomes her quest. A next-door neighbor becomes her willing accomplice.

What might seem like a romance story develops into a believable search for truth from history’s pages. Gunner Girls survived rigorous training, often placed in danger from German bombs. Their job was to arm the anti-aircraft artillery with precision, hoping to strike back at incoming enemy aircraft. Kelly describes the arduous daily grind in detail, giving credence to these women. Throughout the novel, readers can relate to the mystery Cara seeks to solve, hoping that the next chapter will reveal more of Louise’s life but curious about the new realities in Cara’s story.

A well-researched and carefully written work of historical fiction, THE LIGHT OVER LONDON opens the door to daily traumas faced by London’s citizens during the war years.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on March 8, 2019

The Light Over London
by Julia Kelly

  • Publication Date: January 8, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • ISBN-10: 1501196413
  • ISBN-13: 9781501196416