The London House
by Katherine Reay
About the book
Uncovering a dark family secret sends one woman through the history of Britain’s World War II spy network and glamorous 1930s Paris to save her family’s reputation.
Caroline Payne thinks it’s just another day of work until she receives a call from Mat Hammond, an old college friend and historian. But pleasantries are cut short. Mat has uncovered a scandalous secret kept buried for decades: In World War II, Caroline’s British great-aunt betrayed family and country to marry her German lover.
Determined to find answers and save her family’s reputation, Caroline flies to her family’s ancestral home in London. She and Mat discover diaries and letters that reveal her grandmother and great-aunt were known as the “Waite sisters.” Popular and witty, they came of age during the interwar years, a time of peace and luxury filled with dances, jazz clubs, and romance. The buoyant tone of the correspondence soon yields to sadder revelations as the sisters grow apart, and one leaves home for the glittering fashion scene of Paris, despite rumblings of a coming world war.
Each letter brings more questions. Was Caroline’s great-aunt actually a traitor and Nazi collaborator, or is there a more complex truth buried in the past? Together, Caroline and Mat uncover stories of spies and secrets, love and heartbreak, and the events of one fateful evening in 1941 that changed everything.
In this rich historical novel from award-winning author Katherine Reay, a young woman is tasked with writing the next chapter of her family’s story. But Caroline must choose whether to embrace a love of her own and proceed with caution if her family’s decades-old wounds are to heal without tearing them even further apart.
The London House is an incredible novel. It is not a typical dual-time novel, but it does touch two different time periods.
Caroline Payne is given information about her great-aunt Caroline. Information that challenges everything she, and the rest of her family, ever knew about this aunt.
Determined to find out what really happens, she goes to London, to the London House.
There, she reads through old letters and diaries, ones that belonged to Margo (her grandma)and her twin sister Caro.
Through those pages, you are taken back to a time during World War II. A time of tremendous turmoil, in London, and also in Paris.
In addition to the mystery of their family history, there is also the added dimension of lots of family dysfunction. Painful past, difficult times, deaths, and more. Ms. Reay has written this in a thought-provoking manner, and I found this story very relatable.
I loved getting to know the present day Caroline, and seeing how she was able to work through some of her own relationship issues as she read about Margo and Caro’s lives.
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