Happy book birthday to Natalie Meg Evans! The Locket is out today from Bookouture, and I’m happy to be sharing my review on launch day. If you like compelling, emotional historical fiction, you are in the right place.
Book: The Locket
Author: Natalie Meg Evans
Pub Day: Sept 25th 2023
About the book:
England, 1942. ‘It has to stay secret,’ he whispers, placing the locket around her neck. ‘If they find it, they’ll send me away.’ As she holds the locket, glinting in the moonlight, she can’t hold back the tears. ‘I just wish we didn’t have to hide…’
When farmer’s daughter Irene meets Theodore at a village dance, sparks fly instantly. The war has brought him all the way from Louisiana to build a US airbase just across her father’s fields, but as they sway together, there is nothing else in the world. Only his gentle touch and his deep brown eyes.
But being together comes at a price. As Theodore is Black, the might of the US Air Force is against them, and all the members of the little village community disapprove of their relationship. And they will all go to terrible lengths to tear the two young lovers apart…
Decades later, heartbroken Ruby is back at her family’s crumbling farmhouse for the first time in years, after the loss of her beloved grandmother Irene. The roof has fallen in, family photographs are damaged – and her grandmother’s jewellery is nowhere to be found.
When Ruby uncovers her grandmother’s waterlogged diaries, she discovers that Irene treasured one piece of lost jewellery above all. A locket from a man called Theodore. And the missing locket holds the key to unravelling a heartbreaking secret that changed her grandmother’s life…
Is someone in the village hiding the locket to keep the truth about Irene and Theodore buried? And can Ruby find a way to honour her grandmother’s memory – or in digging up the pain of the war, will she tear her family apart?
An absolutely breathtaking World War Two story about the power of love in the face of adversity, and how the tragic consequences of war can echo through generations. Fans of Fiona Valpy, The Nightingale and All the Light We Cannot See will be addicted to this incredible read.
Wow, this book packs a punch! You might think, eh, World War II historical fiction, I’ve read a lot of that, do I really need to read one more? Yes. Yes, you do. The Locket is set in World War II, but the focus is the relationships, the family secrets and why we keep them, the lengths to which bitterness and pain may drive us.
Ruby returns to Suffolk from France to deal with Oak Apple Farm, the inheritance left to her by her grandmother Irene. She’s reeling from the loss of her relationship and her work in one fell swoop, and she isn’t sure what she’ll do going forward, but she plans on selling the old property. As she’s cleaning, though, she finds bits and pieces of the life history of the grandmother she never really knew, including a treasure trove of Irene’s diaries. She’s also hoping to find the one thing of Irene’s that her mother wants – a treasured locket.
Through the diaries, Ruby learns the story of Irene and her airman, Theodore “Theo” Robinson. Theo was stationed in Suffolk to build a U.S. airbase there, but when he saw Irene and she saw him, they fell hard and fast. Their relationship was vehemently discouraged, though, because Theo was Black, and Jim Crow and racism hadn’t remained behind in the States. Their relationship cost them both dearly, as detailed in the diaries’ pages. Ruby is gobsmacked by what she learns, and is determined to right old wrongs if she can.
Y’all, I’m not going to tell you what all happens. That’s the author’s job, and she does it flawlessly. Instead, I’ll tell you what I liked!
The dual timeline, shifting from past to present, works well for this story, and I found it easy to follow both parts. The characters are brilliant. Even the ones that try to make themselves exceedingly unlikable have some glimmer that makes you wonder if there’s more to them than what’s on the surface. The tension of Ruby’s search for answers and her aunt Philippa’s equally strong desire to keep those answers hidden pulls the story along. The harsh reality of racism that followed Theodore to England is heartbreaking.
And the secrets. Oh, my goodness, the secrets. Ruby is sifting through her grandmother’s journals like an archaeologist at a dig, literally looking for clues about her family. Is her mother really Irene’s only child? Is Philippa inherently an awful person, or is there something behind her ugliness? Why can’t Ruby find Irene’s locket, the one thing Irene specifically wanted her daughter to have? The twists and reveals that led up to answers coming to light had me gasping and picking my jaw up off the floor. As an adoptee who’s found her birth family, one of the story threads in particular had me wiping tears of joy at how it played out.
And the ending. I was speechless. It wrapped everything up so perfectly!
With The Locket, Natalie Meg Evans has written a story that will hook you, reel you in, and leave you deeply invested in the outcome. Get comfy, grab your box of tissues, and get to reading.
About the author:
Natalie is a RITA nominated, USA Today Bestselling author of six novels: The Dress Thief, The Milliner’s Secret (re-titled “The Girl who Dreamed of Paris”), The Wardrobe Mistress, Summer in the Vineyards, The Secret Vow and The Paris Girl that feature sisters, Katya and Tatiana. Since then, Natalie has released Into the Burning Dawn and The Italian Girl’s Secret, books set in the luscious Bay of Naples during the second world war. Now, the latest novel is available and it is called The Girl with the Yellow Star. The story takes place in Cornwall on the glorious north coast, and is a heart-wrenching story of loss, love and challenging choices.
Visit her website at https://www.nataliemegevans.uk