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Mr. Churchill's SecretaryMr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was torn between a 3 star and a 4 star for this book. When it was good, it was delightful. It got much of the incoming "tide of war" feel beautifully. The sense of living on the edge of a cliff, and then falling over as the first wave of the Blitz happens. The changes in aspiration that the war brought to both men and women, in terms of work, romance, promise. So much was beautifully done.

And the mystery itself was interesting, especially in how it took up a thread of intrigue that wasn't the least bit overdone and, at least at the outset, handled it well.

But then it all fell apart. The first half of the book was a delight. The second half devolved into something about as realistic as an episode of The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. I was very disappointed in how what seemed to be the author's sensitivity to the mores and customs of the time just seemed to vanish and instead the book became an implausible mess.

I originally picked this up because I saw Princess Elizabeth's Spy and nearly bought it at Barnes and Noble, until I saw it was the second in a series. So I picked up this novel first. I'm now torn. As I said, the parts I loved, I did truly enjoy. Which part will the more mature writer embrace--the wonderful sense of character and place, or the more cliched action and mannerisms that are exhibited in the second half of the book? And do I want to spend my spare allotment of reading time to find out?

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 30th, 2012 12:11 pm (UTC)
Just want to say how much i enjoy the writing in your reviews. Also, how much do you think an editor may have pencil-effed the back half of the book to make it sell since it was a first novel?
Jan. 5th, 2013 11:36 pm (UTC)
*blush* Thank you.

The editor may have had something to do with it. I think the second novel will tell us, because if it is like this one (sort of split personality), I'd lay the faults at the author's door. If it's all the wonderful, layered writing I'll lay the fault at the editor's feet. If it is consistently more like the second half, I'm again inclined to blame the author for being either lazy or more interested in a buck than her voice. But, again, I'm loathe to spend my reading hours on what is mostly an academic exercise--I do enough of that grading Placement exams!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )