Susan Elia MacNeal somehow manages to write about incredibly dark topics – WWII, the Blitz, Nazis – with a non-heavy hand. She visits the darkness but there’s room in the world of her heroine, Maggie Hope, for light. The last novel, The King’s Justice, saw Maggie truly struggling with the many things she’s seen and experienced since the start of the war. It was a crie de Coeur. In this novel, while she’s about to encounter more terrors, she’s out in Hollywood enjoying the sunshine and the availability of food and drink not seen in England since the war began.
Until recently, if you lived in a first world country, you will have become used to living a low risk life. Not one that is totally danger free, but one where you didn’t have an imminent sense of peril when you left your house, particularly in terms of your health. In fact, in recent decades for those of us lucky to lead a relatively privileged life, it’s easy to completely ignore our own mortality without very much effort. What we forgot is that that sense of security is a relatively recent development, and as the emergence of COVID-19 has proven, its one that can still be quickly swept away. We don’t have to look very far back in time to see an age when people lived and died amongst a host of deadly diseases and had to learn to accept the risk. Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë are shining examples of what can be achieved when life is limited by circumstance. So, what inspiration can we take from them as we navigate our way through this global pandemic?