Tuesday, June 9, 2020

44. If I Were You

If I Were You. Lynn Austin. 2020. Tyndale. 464 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Women's Fiction. World War II. Friendship. Christian Fiction]

First sentence from the prologue: Eve Dawson bolted upright in bed. Someone was pounding on her door. Sirens wailed outside, growing louder. Approaching. She leaped up, her instincts screaming for her to run to the air-raid shelter. But no. The war was over.

Premise/plot: If I Were You is the newest historical novel by Lynn Austin. Are Audrey and Eve friends? true friends? It's a complicated relationship for sure. Audrey is an aristocratic daughter, shy and nervous at times, but she is Somebody and knows it. Eve, well, Eve is the daughter of maid. Her father died in World War I. Her mother is busy waiting on the family. Eve is raised by her grandmother--until her grandma dies. Then Eve herself goes into service. She's the opposite of Audrey: ambitious and impulsive. The two are friendly as girls--keeping it hidden from Audrey's parents a must--but will that friendship last through all the twists, turns, ups, and downs?!?!

The novel is not told chronologically. The narrative alternates between the present--1950 in the United States--and the past, England starting in the 1930s. It opens with a SHOCK. Audrey arrives to find that Eve is calling herself AUDREY and living with her in-laws. Eve has taken her identity...and her place in her dead husband's family...

My thoughts: I haven't decided if it was wise or foolish to open with the great big SHOCK in the opening paragraph. On the one hand, you would think that knowing what was coming--that something would happen that would lead Eve to do something so deceitful and manipulative--would take away something from the reading experience. On the other hand, I stayed engaged with the book. It took me a long, long, long time to engage with the characters themselves. Knowing this about Eve kept me from opening myself up to her in some ways....YET Audrey was the less likeable of the two in many of the flashback scenes. So I was torn, conflicted. Was it right to cheer Eve on knowing that she might end up being the bad girl?! Would I be convinced that Eve had done the right thing? But I was engaged with the STORY oddly enough...or not odd at all, all things considered. I love reading books set during World War II. And it was set in England during the war!!! I mean this book was begging to be read.

This is published by a christian publisher, but, I would classify it as not all that preachy. I would say that even if you don't necessarily seek out "Christian fiction" you might enjoy it if you like women's fiction or historical fiction or books with an emphasis on friendship. That being said, I am a Christian; I do not avoid Christian fiction: I actually seek out Christian fiction. I enjoyed this one. It has a theme of forgiveness which I think almost transcends the genre. Not all books about forgiveness end up being preachy.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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