BOOK CLUB: The Daughter of Victory Lights

Author: Kerri Turner
ISBN: 978-1-4892-5672-0
Copy courtesy of HQ Fiction

When you only put a book down because it’s late and you can no longer keep your eyes open, and the first thing you do when you wake is to pick it up and finish it then you know it’s a great read and that in a nutshell sums up Turner’s second novel, The Daughter of Victory Lights.

I loved everything about this book, from the stunningly evocative cover to the descriptions of the characters’ experiences during the Second World War, never gory but achingly real, and the difficulties so many had returning to “normal” life afterward.

The book is split into two halves, the first half covers the period 1941 to approximately 1953, the second half from 1963 onwards.  In the first half of the book, we meet Evelyn Bell, the middle sister of three. Evelyn lives with her elder sister Cynthia in London, Cynthia’s husband Charles is away fighting in the war, and their younger sister Maureen has been evacuated.  Although Evelyn is aware that Cynthia would prefer her to be involved in the Women’s Volunteer Services (doing such essential tasks as unpicking damaged Merchant Navy stockings and knitting them into jerseys), she has successfully applied for the Auxiliary Territorial Service. 

Evelyn is posted to a confidential trial for a women’s unit to operate the searchlights used to light up incoming enemy aircraft to enable the anti-aircraft operators to shoot the planes down before they have a chance to release their bombs over London. This posting does not please Cynthia who is very much “old school” in her beliefs about what a woman should do, how she should dress and how she should behave.

We also meet Flynn, happily working at Smith’s Union Bar in Honolulu, Hawaii, catering to the men of the USS Arizona, on the night the Japanese attack Pearl Harbour and America is forced to join the war. Flynn joins the army and is assigned to the 607th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company, their job to go into the field and identify the dead. 

In 1943 he is posted to England, where the racial rivalry between the companies of black GI’s and White GI’s is highlighted (despite the fact that they are all ostensibly on the same side!). An incident involving a small child, her stuffed dalmatian toy and Alvin, a black GI, will change his world forever.

Post-war we find Evelyn struggling to return to a life of being a woman in the 1940s.  Cynthia who is now the mother of a young boy, Spencer, is hell-bent on getting Evelyn married off as a “proper woman should be.” That is not the life that Evelyn wants and a chance meeting with Flynn and Alvin results in her joining The Victory, a boat providing nightly burlesque entertainment, as an operator of the stage lighting.  The first half of the story ends with Evelyn, now known as Evie, still aboard the Victory, but now the unwed mother of baby Lucy, having been completely disowned by both of her sisters.

In the second half of the book, we meet Lucy, now 10 and living with Cynthia, Charles and their children Spencer and Ruth.  She is clearly not wanted or loved, but it is the only home she remembers. The brief information she has about her mother is that she was a bad woman, no information is forthcoming about her father and any questions are met with immediate punishment.

Then one day a man arrives at Lucy’s home, he introduces himself as Humphrey Walsh and advises he has come to take Lucy to live with her father.  Totally confused, Lucy is bundled with her few possessions into Humphrey’s car and sets off for her new life on the Isle of Wight.

Here she slowly begins to uncover the story of who her mother was, and what happened to her, as well as discovering the broken man who is her father, as she works to find her place in life.

Thank you to HQ Fiction/HarperCollins and Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read and review this fabulous book,  Highly recommended to lovers of Historical Fiction or anyone who enjoys a well written and researched book.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

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