Monday, January 10, 2022

Her Secret War by Pam Lecky, historical fiction set in the Spitfire factory

Title: Her Secret War
Author: Pam Lecky
Publication: Avon, paperback, January 2022 (2021 in UK)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: WWII Ireland and England
Description: After a painful scene breaking up with her boyfriend over his decision to go fly bombers for the RAF, Sarah returns home and that night her Dublin home is bombed by the Germans. Her family and all their possessions are destroyed and after she recovers from her physical injuries, she accepts the invitation of her mother’s brother in Hampshire, England to live with his family. Sarah is grateful for the warm welcome she receives and the opportunity to do war work at the manufacturing facility of the legendary Spitfire fighter planes. However, when she is asked to undertake a secret assignment to ferret out a fellow employee with German sympathies, she has no choice but to accept although the mission is dangerous and likely to result in disgrace.

My Impression: I keep saying I need a break from WWII historical fiction, then I relent when I see something appealing, so I am pleased to report that Her Secret War was an entertaining read and no more improbable than many others where characters get drawn into espionage. Sarah was an interesting heroine who has a temper in the beginning of the book, and the loss of her younger sister makes her want revenge. When she gets a job in the Spitfire factory carefully tracing copies of advanced design plans (if these people knew the first photocopy machine was less than 20 years away, they would probably weep), she is approached by a military officer who bullies and coaxes her to help unmask a traitor by entrapping him with a purloined tracing. 

Fortuitously, the newest member of the tracers has been given critical documents to work with, although if Sarah smuggled out a copy of such plans in real life, she would probably be jailed first and questioned much later. Still, the bombing of neutral Dublin in May 1941 and the subsequent action taking place in Hampshire gave this book an intriguingly different setting from many recent books (I am really tired of heroic women taking on the Resistance single-handedly in France). The factory is located in Hursley, near Winchester, so on a day off Sarah is near the cathedral where Violet Speedwell from A Single Thread is embroidering away:
“Of course, the cathedral is much older again. Have you been inside it yet?”

Sarah laughed, “No, I’d be in serious trouble. Catholics don’t enter Protestant churches. Well, at least back home they don’t!”
I was glad the author remembered such details.  There were some aspects of the story that were unconvincing given the era and small town setting. Sarah dashes about the countryside alone and in the dark, usually to meet her handler, but her father was strict about her comings and goings, so it is strange her uncle and aunt don’t notice her mysterious activities and she manages to fob off her cousin Martin. Sarah’s cousin Judith may be carrying on with a married man in London but I doubt she would announce it to a virtual stranger when Sarah comes to visit, even if she has heard good things about Sarah. And I didn’t think Sarah would have gone to a man’s bedroom when she is living in a small town with family who all work at the same factory and would hear gossip about her, even if she is trying to ingratiate herself with a possible spy.  There is also a character whose behavior is extremely improbable, although timely.  And did English characters use the word OK (which allegedly originated in Boston) during this era?    

The author does a good job showing Sarah’s fear that something will go wrong and the courage it takes to do what she thinks is the right thing. There is a sequel coming in which I expect we will hear more about Sarah’s future adventures and Cousin Judith’s secrets. We disapprove of her because she never comes home to see her family on weekends and you know an affair with the married boss is not going to work out . . .

This is my second book of the year for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository
Source: I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and TLC Book Tours for review purposes. To visit other stops on the tour, please click below:

January 6th: Jathan & Heather

January 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

January 10th: Man of La Book

Wednesday, January 12th: Stacy’s Books

January 13th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

January 14th: Write – Read – Life

January 18th: Run Wright

January 19th: Books, Cooks, and Looks

January 20th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

January 21st: View from the Birdhouse


Sara Strand said...

Thank you for being on this tour! Sara @ TLC Book Tours

Marg said...

I do like the sound of this one because of the setting the spitfire factory!