A broken family, a house of secrets—an entrancing tale of love and courage set during the Second World War.
After Rebecca’s mother dies, she must sort through her empty flat and come to terms with her loss. As she goes through her mother’s mail, she finds a handwritten envelope. In it is a letter that will change her life forever.
Olivia, her mother’s elderly cousin, needs help to save her beloved home. Rebecca immediately goes to visit Olivia in Cornwall only to find a house full of secrets—treasures in the attic and a mysterious tunnel leading from the cellar to the sea, and Olivia, nowhere to be found.
As it turns out, the old woman is stuck in hospital with no hope of being discharged until her house is made habitable again. Rebecca sets to work restoring the home to its former glory, but as she peels back the layers of paint and grime, she uncovers even more buried secrets—secrets from a time when the Second World War was raging, when Olivia was a young woman, and when both romance and danger lurked around every corner...
A sweeping and utterly spellbinding tale of a young woman’s courage in the face of war and the lengths to which she’ll go to protect those she loves against the most unexpected of enemies.
Johnson (The Tenth Gift) spins an irresistible epic history of one family in Cornwall, England. After Becky discovers a letter sent to her recently deceased mother by a 90-year-old cousin, Olivia, asking for help, Becky heeds the call and travels to Cornwall, where the authorities want to send Olivia to an assisted-living facility. At Olivia's decrepit old house, Becky is greeted by a foul-mouthed parrot (" Fuck off,' he says, so quietly it is almost an endearment"). As the days unfold through visits with Olivia at a nearby hospital, Becky discovers a kindred spirit in her elderly cousin, a painter whose work was renowned, but whose identity has been cloaked by the initials OK for decades. Seamlessly toggling back and forth between Becky's point of view and Olivia's, the story shifts from WWII Cornwall to the present day and takes an intriguing turn when Becky discovers a human bone in Olivia's basement. Parts of the story are tough to take an intellectually disabled child's rape by a Nazi during WWII is particularly stomach-churning though the villains are dispatched in suitable fashion. Johnson keeps the narrative speeding along, underpinning her tale with a large supporting cast, among them a housecleaner who secretly doses Olivia's tea with rat poison and a builder who ties up the last of Olivia's mysteries. Johnson's powers of description evoke the setting's living history and brings it to brilliant life. This sweeping saga is a must-read.