My friend Sandra who blogs at Beauty Balm told me that I absolutely had to read this book as she was sure I would enjoy it. And she was right, so thanks Sandra!
This book looks at the experiences of three main characters living on Jersey towards the end of World War Two. Dora is a midwife who meets farmer Geoffrey when called to a birth at his farm. Joe is an Irish priest and boxer. The memories of what happened to them during the war is brought back to them by visits and letters from a woman trying to find out about her mother who was also in Jersey during the war. She has photographs which bring so many memories flooding back, memories of shame and heartbreak.
I love dual timeline stories where there is a mystery connecting past and present waiting to be solved. I also am drawn to books set in wartime. This book brought to light an element of women’s experiences in WW2 which I was unaware of and I was fascinated, though also horrified, to read the facts that this story was based on and inspired by. It was interesting and rather puzzling to read that Britain chose not to prosecute these atrocities and war crimes carried out on the Channel Islands, the only part of UK soil occupied during the war.
This book is well named with so many secrets kept hidden for so many years. I could easily understand why the characters, and Dora in particular, didn’t want to talk about what happened and when you hear about these experiences, it’s not surprising. The characters felt compelled to hide parts of their personality, their backgrounds and their feelings during the war too in order to keep safe, and who could blame them? I’m not sure that I could have been as brave as they were faced with such appalling circumstances.
The Hidden explores the capacity of human spirit to survive and carry on. Mary Chamberlain clearly shows the enormous feelings of guilt felt by her characters even though they were not the ones who should be feeling guilty. Her compelling novel weaves together past and present, telling a story of women in war that is perhaps not widely known.
My thanks to the publishers, Oneworld Publications, for my free review e-copy of this book via Netgalley. The Hidden is published today in hardback and as an e-book. The paperback will follow in September. The book will be available to buy or order from your usual book retailer or you can order a Kindle copy online here: The Hidden
From the back of the book
Her heart died in the war – can she breathe new life to it?
Dora Simon and Joe O’Cleary live in separate countries, accepting of their twilight years. But their monochrome worlds are abruptly upended by the arrival of Barbara Hummel, who is determined to identify the mysterious woman whose photograph she has found among her mother’s possessions.
Forced to confront a time they thought buried in the past, Dora and Joe’s lives unravel – and entwine. For, trapped on the Channel Islands under the German occupation in the Second World War, Dora, a Jewish refugee, had concealed her identity; while Joe, a Catholic priest, kept quite another secret…
This is a story of love and betrayal, shame and survival. But can a speck of light diffuse the darkest shadows of war?
About the author
Mary Chamberlain is the author of popular and academic histories of both Britain and the Caribbean. Her book, Fenwomen, was the first to be published by Virago Press in 1975, and was the basis for Caryl Churchill’s award-winning play, Fen. She is emeritus professor of Caribbean history at Oxford Brookes University and now writes fiction. A novel, The Mighty Jester, (awarded third place in the 2013 Literature Works ‘first page’ award) was published by Dr. Cicero Books in the USA in 2014. The Dressmaker of Dachau was published in Spring 2015 by The Borough Press (HarperCollins) in the United Kingdom. Under the title ‘The Dressmaker’s War’ it was published by Random House in the United States in January 2016. It has sold to 18 countries, and was a best seller in both France and Italy. Her second novel, ‘The Hidden’ will be published by OneWorld Publications in February 2019.
See her website at: http://www.marychamberlainbooks.com