THE LAST NIGHT IN LONDON
By: Karen White
Published: April 20, 2021
Author Karen White lived in London for seven years as a child. For nearly twenty years, she has wanted to write about the beautiful building she lived in near Regent’s Park and its history during the Blitz. This story is one that took years of contemplation and research to create the characters and the plot for her story. In this dual narrative, she weaves the past and the present together to unravel a woman’s past before she is gone forever.
The first story begins in London in 1939 with two best friends, Eva and Precious, working as fashion models. Eva has a chance meeting with the handsome Graham on the streets of London and her life takes a turn she never expected. Eva, formerly Ethel, has felt the need to change her life story to meet the expectations of society and who she assumes Graham needs her to be. Then WWII hits London and her past and secrets she has kept hidden are now being used against her and she is in too deep to get out unscathed.
“Ethel died the day Eva Harlow was born. The day I decided to become more than what I was.”Karen White, THE LAST NIGHT IN LONDON
The other story features an American journalist, Maddie, who has come to interview Precious, a former fashion model, about her years in the fashion industry for British Vogue. As Precious reveals bits of her life, Maddie realizes there is a bigger story to tell and she only has so much time to get it out of Precious before she and her secrets are gone forever. Precious’ nephew, Colin, just happens to be an old college romance gone bad for Maddie and she can’t seem to let go of her past with Colin.
“One year of happiness is worth so much more than a lifetime of just existing. There are no guarantees in life, and you have to accept that and love all the beautiful and ugly that life throws at you.”Karen White, THE LAST NIGHT IN LONDON
As you travel through the novel, alternating chapters tell the story of Eva and Precious and then Maddie and Precious’ staff and family trying to also unravel her story. The two stories collide as a mystery reveals itself and Precious is finally ready to tell the secret she never wanted to reveal which will change the lives of those she holds the dearest to her.
I love dual narrative stories because the two stories propel you through the novel to find out how they are going to meet up. In this one, there was a definite mystery element related to Precious and Eva’s story and as the reader, I was consumed with finding out what all the connections were to a specific purse and dresses from their past. The novel begins with a woman running to avoid bombs with a baby, trying to keep them safe. It isn’t until the very end that you realize who the woman was and who the baby belonged to. I had to go back and read the Prologue again to tie it all together in my mind.
Since there was a dual narrative and two timelines, that also meant a lot of different characters. I have to admit, I did struggle a bit with keeping everyone straight and who was related to whom. Even towards the end of the novel, I felt like there were characters mentioned that I didn’t remember who they were. The romance in both timelines was secondary to me. I tend to get a little bored with characters who refuse to say what they want or hide behind mistakes. But, that is what propels a storyline and a mystery, it just isn’t my favorite trope, especially in historical fiction.
I appreciate that White wanted to tell the story of the beautiful building she lived in and what may have happened there. This was her home and finding out it was damaged in the Blitz many years before must have been quite difficult to comprehend. The loss of lives over the course of the bombings and the damage to the city of London was overwhelming.
“Home is a place that lives in one’s heart, waiting with open arms to be rediscovered.”Karen White, THE LAST NIGHT IN LONDON
White took great care to share the story of her London home, the details of WWII in London, and how it affected the families as well as the fashion industry. I was shocked to learn that Vogue was even still publishing during the war. Even though there were paper shortages, they felt there was an importance to continue to communicate messages to the women of Britain about consumerism and domestic life. In fact, the magazine had published a message to its readers to “swap their usual tweed skirts for trousers – but only if they were under fifty years old and weighed less than ten stone.” I only wish I could see the amazing dresses that White described Eva and Precious wearing. They sounded so delicate and exquisite.
Fans of realistic historical fiction and character-driven novels will find themselves transported to WWII London and all the secrets that were kept during the devastating days of the London Blitz.