About the Book, The English Wife
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…
This is a timeless story of love, sacrifice and resilience perfect for fans of Lorna Cook and Gill Paul.
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About the Author, Adrienne Chinn
Adrienne Chinn was born in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, grew up in Quebec, and eventually made her way to London, England after a career as a journalist. In England she worked as a TV and film researcher before embarking on a career as an interior designer, lecturer, and writer. When not up a ladder or at the computer, she can usually be found rummaging through flea markets or haggling in the Marrakech souk. Her second novel, The English Wife — a timeslip story set in World War II England and contemporary Newfoundland — is published in June 2020. Her debut novel, The Lost Letter from Morocco, was published by Avon Books UK in 2019. She is currently writing her third novel, The Photographer’s Daughters, the first of a 3-book series, to be published in 2021.
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I’ve been obsessed with the musical Come From Away, which tells the story of how the people of Gander, Newfoundland welcomed the “plane people” – the travelers of the thirty-seven international flights that were diverted away from U.S. airspace after the Twin Towers were destroyed on September 11, 2001.
The English Wife is not connected to the musical, and yet, because I know the play, the contemporary parts of this wonderful novel felt very familiar to me, as they also take place in Gander, Newfoundland, beginning on September 11th, 2001, and continuing from there, as one of the many vibrant female characters in the story, Sophie, is one of the “plane people.”
But, not all of the novel takes place in Gander – half the story is set in England during World War II, where we meet Ellie and Dottie, sisters living with daily fear of bombings, as well as the thrill of being young women (well, Dottie is really just a girl when we first meet her) in the first blushes of young love.
The story is a sweeping family drama, with three strong women at the center – Ellie and Dottie in the distant past, and Sophie in the recent past – but there are also male characters who add to the tale, for they are the love interests, the people who gently push the women to greater achievements, and the quiet presences who balance their partners.
Thomas and George, in the WWII sections, and Sam in the more contemporary parts of the story are those central male figures, and they are each as interesting and dimensional as the women with whom they interact.
Rounding out the story is a host of supporting characters, most importantly Emmett (Emmy), Florie, and Becca (Sam’s daughter, who is deaf.)
Author Adrienne Chinn weaves the historical and contemporary parts of her tale together with great aplomb, and her craft is really highlighted by her use of the Newfoundland dialect and the way she describes people using sign language with Becca. (As an aside, I’m now curious as to whether Newfoundlanders use ASL or BSL or something specifically Canadian.) Her skill with dialogue does as much to tell us about her characters as their physical descriptions do.
Overall, this was a story rich in cultural and historical detail, family drama, and a plot that had the perfect pace for a novel that blends history, romance, personal tragedy, and layered relationships into a satisfying and compelling whole.
Goes well with corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and a really good ale.