Story: Ellie Burgess knows no home other than Norwich, England. When she meets and falls in love with Canadian soldier Thomas admist the chaos of WWII, she knows her life has been changed forever. After Thomas goes missing in action, Ellie is surprised to find out he is alive and recovering in his hometown in Newfoundland. Leaving everything behind, Ellie travels halfway around the world to a new reality she could not have imagined, with consequences she cannot avoid.
On September 11, 2001, Sophie Parry is traveling to New York City from London when her plane is grounded in Newfoundland. With precious few options, she calls her estranged aunt Ellie seeking refuge. Little does Sophie know then that her life will take a significant turn that has nothing to do with one of the most infamous days in United States history.
Beyond the tops of the fir trees, the inky blue water of the ocean glimmers in the sun, and down the coast, a red-roofed lighthouse and a tall white house can just be made out on a protruding cliff.
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Why I chose this book: As we’ve all navigated the global COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve found myself reflecting more and more on what previous generations have lived through. I’m regularly drawn to multi-generational split narratives, and The English Wife was particularly intriguing because of the WWII era story (of course) and the connection to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.
Here and there a lone scraggy pine leans from a precarious foothold in a rock into the wind blowing in from the Arctic, like an old man fighting to keep upright on a blustery day.
Review: For me, a sign of whether or not I enjoy a book is if I am invested in the characters. When I find myself wondering – hours after putting the book down – how things will work out for so and so, that’s quality writing. The English Wife delivered on that for me. The struggles felt fairly realistic; the conversations (mostly) believable. The plot twists were somewhat predictable, but I appreciated the way they unfolded.
Author Adrienne Chinn uses language with local flavor to transport readers to Newfoundland. She describes the customs and the challenges of life “on the rock” well, but what I enjoyed most were her descriptions of the landscape and the flora and fauna. It is very clear that this part of the world is special to her, and that she appreciates the raw, harsh, natural beauty. As someone who does little traveling even when there isn’t a global pandemic, authors who can describe scenery down to the texture of the rock rate highly on my scorecard.
After a few minutes the scrubby larches thin out and give way to a carpet of moss and green rootless liverworts where the branches of the firs and the spruce trees form an umbrella over the forest floor. … The forest swallows her cries, smothering them in its velvet darkness.
Recommendation: If you’ve followed my reviews for any length of time, I admittedly tend to read “fluffier” novels. This is not a fluffy read, but it isn’t so heavy that you feel the weight of the plot eating at you either. I would recommend this for readers who want some character development, a little romance, dramatic family secrets and/or the idea of people finding their true selves. I think it’d be a great book club choice as it could appeal to a broad audience and has some great points for discussion!
This isn’t a story focused on WWII or September 11th as I first imagined, so if those were pulls for you, this may not meet your expectations. While the language is clean and romance fairly tame, I do feel the overall book is more adult and may be better for high school age and up.
Far below, the ocean glimmers blue under the summer sun, the water broken only by spouts like fountains. Far down the coast, the red roof of the lighthouse is a dot of colour against the blue sky.
The English Wife Discussion Questions
I enjoy thinking of questions regarding the books I read, and sometimes, the books provide some as well!
- Ellie. Is she the heroine of this story? Is Sophie? Who would you cast as the villian?
- It seems everyone in this book keep secrets. List as many characters as you can and note the secret(s) they are hiding. Which do you feel is the most damaging and why?
- Florie is a bright spot in Tippy’s Tickle. Despite her free-spirited nature, I saw her as the rock of the “family.” How does she contrast Ellie’s personality? How does she impact those around her?
- Describe the arc of Emmett’s character throughout the book. How do feel about him?
- I love good symbolism and Adrienne Chinn delivers with the whales in this novel. Reflect on the whales that appear and what they mean. When do they appear? To whom? How are they described?
- Why do you think Ms Chinn made Sam a part of the motorcycle group the Chrome Warriors? How does riding a motorcycle fit Sam’s personality? How does it seem to rebel against his reserved, careful nature?
Special thanks to TLC Book Tours for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review!
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Friday, March 5th: What Is That Book About
About Adrienne Chinn
Adrienne Chinn was born in an old paper-making town in Newfoundland, and grew up in rural Quebec and Montreal. She retraced her English father’s footsteps back to England, where she now lives and works as an interior designer.
She travels all over the world to speak at international events, and leads design retreats in her beloved Morocco, which she has been visiting regularly for over ten years.
When not writing or designing, Adrienne can be found puttering in her Sussex garden; trawling flea markets; swimming anywhere she can find a lake, sea or pool; or in the queue at Gatwick heading off somewhere new.
Two women, a world apart.
A secret waiting to be discovered…
VE Day 1945: As victory bells ring out across the country, war bride Ellie Burgess’ happiness is overshadowed by grief. Her charismatic Newfoundlander husband Thomas is still missing in action.
Until a letter arrives explaining Thomas is back at home on the other side of the Atlantic recovering from his injuries.
Travelling to a distant country to live with a man she barely knows is the bravest thing Ellie has ever had to do. But nothing can prepare her for the harsh realities of her new home…
September 11th 2001: Sophie Parry is on a plane to New York on the most tragic day in the city’s history. While the world watches the news in horror, Sophie’s flight is rerouted to a tiny town in Newfoundland and she is forced to seek refuge with her estranged aunt Ellie.
Determined to discover what it was that forced her family apart all those years ago, newfound secrets may change her life forever…