The eagle eyed among you will have seen that on the right hand side of the blog this title is my book of the month. I normally give this accolade at the end of each month and review those I have read in the last few weeks and pick a title, but pretty sure that I am not going to find another book that I will enjoy more than this in the next few weeks so up it goes.
When The Last Telegram dropped through my letterbox last week I thought it looked promising and right up my street. I then took a note of the author and thought 'Gosh I used to know a Liz Trenow very well' and when I checked and saw that she lived in Colchester realised it was the Liz I used to know - our children went to schoool together, played together, we belonged to the same babysitting group, Liz sang, probably still does, in one of my ex-husband's choirs and for some years our lives were intertwined. I was simply delighted to see that she had written her debut novel, but then had a sudden qualm. 'Oh my God, suppose I don't like it'. I need not have worried - within five minutes I knew I was going to love this story and so I did.
Set at the outbreak of the Second World War it tells the story of Lily Verney forced into becoming an apprentice at her father's silk weaving factory as her original plans to study in Geneva had to be abandoned because of the international situation. At first resentful, she gradually becomes fascinated with the silk making process .."it was heavy, the texture of matt satin, the colour of clotted cream and wonderfully sensuous. It felt deliciously soft and warm, like being stroked with eiderdown, and almost without thinking I lifted it to my cheek......I realilsed I'd never before properly appreciated silk, its brilliant lustrous colours, the range of weaves and patterns....I was already hooked, like a trout on a fly-line, but I didn't know it yet"
With the departure of her brother John who volunteers to fight, Lily is drawn more and more into the running of the mill with her father and takes on a greater share of responsibility for the production of the parachute silk which is helping the company survive where others had closed. During this period Lily persuades her father to sponsor three 'Kindertransport' Jewish boys who have come to England , one of whom is Stefan "...he hadn't shaved for a couple of days and a dark shadow grew thickly on his slim face. His voice was more baritone than tenor and deep set eyes peered out warily through his floppy fringe of untidy hair". He and Lily fall in love but with the outbreak of the war this is frowned upon and Stefan is taken away and interned and they endure a long period of separation.
While their love for each other is at the heart of the story, it is Lily who takes centre stage. Lily, who grows in stature and authority as the years pass by and who ends up running the company. Nervous and unsure of herself at the beginning of the story she is accepted in a male world and proves her worth - this journey is not without tragedy and heartbreak along the way and I freely admit that I had a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye on a couple of occasions.
The story begins in the present day at the funeral of Lily's husband and then the narrative slips back in time. As all readers of Random know by now, mainly because I keep telling you, this is one of my favourite devices - we meet Lily at a point in her life on page one and then learn the story of how she got there and then the denoument when a secret heartache and sorrow which has haunted Lily all her life is resolved.
A really excellent story, beautifully written and beautifully told with a grip on the reader than does not let go and made me unable to put the book down until I had read the final page. Simply delighted to hear that a second is in the pipeline and looking forward to it already.
I know comparisons are odious, but there was something Rosamund Pilcher'ish about this book and I do assure the author that this is a compliment as far as I am concerned. Anybody who has read The Shell Seekers or Winter Solstice knows the lovely feeling of being totally immersed in a wonderfully told story so that the outside world goes away and all that matters is the events in the lives of the characters in the book you are reading. I found this in The Last Telegram and loved every word of it.
Do get hold of a copy - I know you will love it.