Sunday, January 06, 2019

Review: The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

Title: The Light Over London
Author: Julia Kelly
Published: January 2019, Gallery Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 304 pages
Source: Publisher

Reminiscent of Martha Hall Kelly's Lilac Girls and Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, this sweeping, entrancing story is a must-read for fans of remarkable women rising to challenges they could never have predicted.

It’s always been easier for Cara Hargraves to bury herself in the past than confront the present, which is why working with a gruff but brilliant antiques dealer is perfect. While clearing out an estate, she pries open an old tin that holds the relics of a lost relationship: among the treasures, a World War II-era diary and a photograph of a young woman in uniform. Eager to find the author of the hauntingly beautiful, unfinished diary, Cara digs into this soldier’s life, but soon realizes she may not have been ready for the stark reality of wartime London she finds within the pages.

In 1941, nineteen-year-old Louise Keene’s life had been decided for her—she’ll wait at home in her Cornish village until her wealthy suitor returns from war to ask for her hand. But when Louise unexpectedly meets Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton, a dashing RAF pilot stationed at a local base, everything changes. And changes again when Paul’s unit is deployed without warning.

Desperate for a larger life, Louise joins the women’s branch of the British Army in the anti-aircraft gun unit as a Gunner Girl. As bombs fall on London, she and the other Gunner Girls relish in their duties to be exact in their calculations, and quick in their identification of enemy planes during air raids. The only thing that gets Louise through those dark, bullet-filled nights is knowing she and Paul will be together when the war is over. But when a bundle of her letters to him are returned unanswered, she learns that wartime romance can have a much darker side.

Illuminating the story of these two women separated by generations and experience, Julia Kelly transports us to World War II London in this heartbreakingly beautiful novel through forgotten antique treasures, remembered triumphs, and fierce family ties.

My thoughts: I picked this gem up at Book Expo last spring and I am so glad I did. One of my New Year's reading resolutions is to read a wider variety of books, including historical fiction, which I love but tend to not read as much. This book peaked my interest because it is set in London and part of the book is set during WWII. 

I love a good dual narrative and felt that this one really was well-done. The present day story, narrated by Cara, was just as engrossing as the past timeline, narrated by Louise. Both women it seems are trying to find themselves and a place where they belong. Cara is just coming off a divorce and still reeling a bit from the deaths of her parents. She works for an antiques dealer and comes across a diary belonging to a WWII "gunner girl." Louise, tired of living with her overbearing mother, decides to run off and enlist, where she eventually finds herself part of the "ack ack girls" unit. 

While I will say this book leaned a bit more towards the romance than the history, I did find the bits about the gunner girls to be quite fascinating. I had not heard about them before, so this was all new to me, and there is nothing I love more when reading historical fiction than picking up new tidbits of knowledge. 

I loved how the story was told, how we would be in Cara's section and it would end with her "reading" an entry or two from Louise's diary and then that would carry into Louise's section, where we would go a bit deeper. The use of the actual diary entries was a great way to hook the reader and keep you engaged. 

As much as I enjoyed the mystery that was part of this book, it really was the characters that kept me glued to the pages. I was completely invested in what was happening in their lives, wanting to know just how they were going to deal with all that had been thrown at them. And I loved that not everything ends up all sunshine. Life isn't like that and Julia Kelly gave us a more relatable, believable story by giving us just that.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will certainly be looking into more books about those gunner interest is totally peaked! If you are looking for a light read about WWII, I recommend picking this one's a great read!!!



  1. This story about WWII sounds fascinating, Kristin. You might add a link to your review to the War Reading Challenge 2019, hosted by Serena from Savvy Verse & Wit and Anna from Diary of an Eccentric.

  2. WWII stories are heart breakingly good. Always throwing up another aspect of war, all unique. I never get tired of that setting.


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