Review copy was received from Library. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Published by HarperAudio on May 2, 2017
Genres: Historical Romance
Length: 9 hours, 43 minutes
Amazon, Audible, Audiobook, Barnes & Noble, iTunes
From USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Robson—author of Moonlight Over Paris and Somewhere in France—comes a lush historical novel that tells the fascinating story of Ruby Sutton, an ambitious American journalist who moves to London in 1940 to report on the Second World War, and to start a new life an ocean away from her past.
In the summer of 1940, ambitious young American journalist Ruby Sutton gets her big break: the chance to report on the European war as a staff writer for Picture Weekly newsmagazine in London. She jumps at the chance, for it's an opportunity not only to prove herself, but also to start fresh in a city and country that know nothing of her humble origins. But life in besieged Britain tests Ruby in ways she never imagined.
Although most of Ruby's new colleagues welcome her, a few resent her presence, not only as an American but also as a woman. She is just beginning to find her feet, to feel at home in a country that is so familiar yet so foreign, when the bombs begin to fall.
As the nightly horror of the Blitz stretches unbroken into weeks and months, Ruby must set aside her determination to remain an objective observer. When she loses everything but her life, and must depend upon the kindness of strangers, she learns for the first time the depth and measure of true friendship—and what it is to love a man who is burdened by secrets that aren’t his to share.
When I pick up a book that takes place during World War 2, I am never 100% sure how many tears I’m going to shed. I often marvel how any story that takes place during a period in history marked by such devastating loss and immeasurable hardship can end up lifting my spirts. Goodnight From London, by Jennifer Robson, is a feel-good novel about a plucky American journalist who leaves behind the safety and comforts of home to face danger and uncertainly in WW2 London and beyond.
Ruby is an intelligent and resourceful young woman. From the onset it is clear that she craves a greater challenge in her career. Furthermore, she is missing vital human connections to the people around her. When she is given the opportunity to move to London as a war correspondent reporting on the home front, she is willing to do whatever she needs to make it happen. It is easy to get caught up in Ruby’s excitement and ambition. Ruby is able to escape the fetters of her background (the extent of her secrets are revealed bit by bit throughout the novel) and grows as a professional and personally.
Ms. Robson covers many themes in her story, although not in any pedantic or plodding manner. The role of women in the war, the way media has the opportunity to bolster a narrative and influence public opinion, or the impact of the Blitz on the British people are just a few examples. Threaded through all of this is just the right amount of romance. The dashing and mysterious Captain Bennett is my kind of hero. From the minute he shows up on the page, I was rooting for him to be Ruby’s love interest. Of course, during war, there are no guarantees, and Captain Bennett’s first priority is his duty. It makes for some good romantic tension and the outcome was not completely obvious.
The timeline spans the entire war, and from chapter to chapter I was surprised at how time had advanced within the story. I felt the author had a meaningful conclusion to impart, which necessitated rushing the narrative to the post-war period. While I understand the choice to accelerate the timeline for plot and pacing, I feel there was a bit of a missed opportunity to dive more deeply into the characters and their struggles.
Overall, I enjoyed this lighter, less-angsty WW2 story, and was quite pleased with the romantic element. I love reading about powerful-minded women who take control of their destinies and even though they get knocked down, they don’t stay down. It is no wonder Eleanor Roosevelt has a cameo. There were a few tears, but that was part of the charm. I loved the cast of supporting characters and hope to read more about them in subsequent books.
I think this is the best narration I’ve heard from Saskia Maarleveld. I’m used to her work in contemporary and new adult romance and this might be the first time I’ve listened to her narrate an historical fiction novel. I was super impressed by her variety of accents, which all sounded authentic and were easy to understand and differentiate. Her pacing was right on and I enjoyed the overall performance very much.
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