Synopsis: (from Booklist) Nora Lynch is at the end of her life, and she intends to die alone. When she takes in a young, unwed mother, however, her plan is interrupted, and she begins to relive the time she spent with the Rivers family during WWII. Among the many London children evacuated from the city during the Blitz, Nora landed in Kent, where Reverend Rivers, his wife, and daughter, Grace, gave her a life she never dreamed of and, in the end, never wanted. Hall's debut captures the stagnation of the Rivers family, hiding behind the seeming tranquility of their lives to shield themselves from painful memories. Even the war feels far away. Planes flying overhead are muffled by the stifling calm of the English countryside. When Nora falls for Grace, she is tormented by loving someone she can't have, and her descent into isolation and bitterness is intensely evoked. The prose, flitting between the present and wartime Kent, is as crisp, efficient, and quietly moving as Nora herself. Her attempt to find redemption and her struggle to forgive herself will engage readers to the end.
About the Author: Catherine Hall was born in the Lake District in 1973. Now based in London, she worked in documentary film production before becoming a freelance writer and editor for a range of organizations specializing in human rights and development.
Interview with the Author: A CONVERSATION WITH CATHERINE HALL from Penguin.com website
My Review: Days of Grace by Catherine Hall starts at the beginning of World War II in 1939 with a twelve year old girl, Nora, being evacuated from London to the countryside for safety. She is chosen to live with the Rivers family by the daughter, Grace. Nora loves living in the country and has a close friendship with Grace. Nora enjoys a better lifestyle in the country than she did in London with her mother.
Days of Grace alternates between chapters, going between present and past events as told by the young and older Nora. Generally, this type of alternating is distracting to me as a reader. In Days of Grace it is an integral part of the story. The secrets unfold between the telling of the past and present in a way that is very compelling. Nora’s past does a wonderful job of explaining the present and her feelings. The story of Nora’s past comes to a pivotal point in the story with VE Day, on May 8th, 1945. This is when World War II ends with the formal acceptance of the surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany, ending Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.
There are many themes within this story: such as the power of secrets on shaping one’s life, the strength of the bond of friendship, the power of unrequited love and the lasting impact of one’s decisions on their future.
Main characters in the past are the young Nora, an evacuee from London and the Rivers family that takes her in, consisting of the Reverend, his wife and their daughter Grace. I loved the free spirit that is Grace. She was my favorite character, leaving a lasting impression on many lives. My least favorite character was Nora as an old woman. She seemed selfish to me and not mindful other’s long-term happiness.
I thought the title; Days of Grace could be taken a number of ways. It could represent the carefree youth of Nora and Grace running and playing in the countryside. The cover of Day’s of Grace by Catherine Hall reminds me of this. It could also represent the days that Nora has Grace in her life before they part ways. The title could represent all the days of Nora’s life that are filled with thoughts of Grace and the impact of that. Lastly, Grace could be taken not as the name of a person, but the ability to live one’s life with grace, as to live with a disposition to kindness and compassion.
My Rating: 4/5 - I would recommend this book to others. I was interested in this time in history as I was not that familiar with it. I found the book very suspenseful and revealing bit and pieces of the story is a very masterful manner. I ended up going to work very tired a day or two due to this book. I would have given Days of Grace a 4.5 rating, but ending was not my favorite.
Other Bloggers Reviews: