Cover Image: Seven Days in May

Seven Days in May

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Member Reviews

I was intrigued to read this novel because I'm fascinated by stories of doomed ocean liners, and hoped for a great romantic shipboard saga. Even knowing the fate of the Lusitania, I hoped to have some surprises in store with the fictional characters--but no. Although I  stayed with this book through to the end to see how the author depicted the ship's disaster, praying there'd be surprises in the "romantic" storyline, it was totally predictable. There wasn't any believable chemistry or foundation for the romance between heroine and "hero", they fell in love in two seconds. None of the characters had much depth, and they weren't very likable--all of them made choices that were morally wrong (sleeping with your sister's fiance?? reading private letters addressed to Churchill??), mainly for the ease of the author to provide information and keep the story going. And although it seemed that the book was well researched, there is a HUGE glaring error near the end, when Sydney and the survivors are brought to Queenstown, Ireland to recover. The book says she traveled by train from there to Yorkshire, England. Excuse me? The entire Irish Sea stands between Ireland and England, and the area was full of German U-boats torpedoing ships, so how did she take a train from Ireland to England? Mistakes like that really take me out of a story. But, thank you Netgalley for the chance to read this book! I will try another book by this author and hope it's better.
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Seven Days in May by Kim Izzo appealed to me as I'm interested in reading about WW1 and the suffragette movement. I was looking forward to seeing how the author would combine the storyline on the ship and that of the codebreaker Isabel in London. I'm sad to say that the book didn't really manage to satisfy me. I wanted intensity, but what I got was a bombast story with shallow characters and extremely predictable storyline.

The storyline with Isabel was marginally better than the one with the sisters on the ship. Still, the fallen women storyline has been done so many times before and better. Although I did enjoy the part when Mildred, Isabel's nemesis got what she deserved. I always like it when a despicable person gets what she/he deserves. What really troubled me was that Isabel getting an important job and the first thing she does is reading a letter from Churchill, because the envelope wasn't sealed ... seriously? And, when I think about it, shouldn't they have done a better background check on her, now that she has such an important job?

Then we have Sydney and Brooke Sinclair. Sydney is a suffragette fighting for women's rights, at least she is supposed to be it, but it never rings true and mostly she is portrayed as a poor rich girl that pretends to be a suffragette, but I lost all respect for her when she in spite decided to change from first class to third on the ship because she was arguing with her sister. Like a child with a tantrum. Brooke isn't much better, she is rich, but she wants a title and the best way is to find a poor aristocrat and marry him.

Then we have the romance story, oh this one was so easy to see that it's almost laughable. I won't give it away, but you can see right from the start how it all will end.

So, this was not a story to my liking, I persevered until the end, but It's not a book I can recommend.
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If you’re one of those who can’t stand negative reviews, quit while you’re ahead and stop reading now. I don’t mean to be rude, but I didn’t enjoy the time I spent with Kim Izzo’s Seven Days in May and I’ve no intention of mincing my words to appease everyone who thinks negative commentary a waste of both time and energy. 

The sinking of the Lusitania boasts an overwhelming degree of intrigue, but Izzo’s illustration of the ship’s final voyage lacks both dimension and depth. Izzo relies on a series of information dumps to relay facts about the voyage, but fails to recreate the spirit of its passengers or the ambiance of its accommodations. The research was obviously done, but atmospherically I found the novel lifeless and flat. I don’t mean to imply that Izzo didn’t care about the historic elements of the story, she did a fair amount of research, but in terms of storytelling she exhibits a distinct preference for character drama over period detail. 

Unfortunately, I found this emphasis misplaced as the entirety of the cast struck me as both cliched and predictable. I hate to be that reviewer, but stock characterizations don’t do it for me and Izzo failed to bring anything new to the table. A suffragette whose only flaw is getting into trouble for standing up for women’s rights? A self-righteous, marriage minded socialite? An inexplicably talented codebreaker with no experience who just happens to land a government job? An impoverished yet charming member of the aristocracy who is willing to trade his title for wealth? Give me a freaking break. 

Finally, and I know this is petty, but I genuinely feel the story overburdened with competing plots. Sydney, Brooke, and Edward are united in that they are all passengers on the ship, but Isabel exists on the periphery of the disaster. Her position provides an avenue for Izzo to explore the military aspects of the story, but there’s virtually no cohesion between her story and that of the other leads.

Long story short, Seven Days in May didn’t work for me and I’d have a difficult time recommending it to other readers.
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Thanks to HarperCollins and NetGalley for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I thought Seven Days in May was a great book. From the stories of the rich in New York at the turn of the century, to a secret British Admiralty office, to the horror and the aftermath of the sinking of the Lusitania.  I couldn't put the book down and read it in one day.

The book tells the story of two wealthy heiresses, Sidney and Brooke Sinclair.  Brooke is engaged to a British aristocrat, Edward Thorpe-Tracy, a future Lord, who needs her money to save his estate and plans to marry her before he goes off to fight in WWI.  Sidney, Brooke's sister, is a feminist who is active in the suffragette movement and is disdainful of her sister's plan.  Edward comes to New York to escort the sisters back to England for the wedding on the Lusitania.

At the same time, Isabel Nelson is working hard as the only female code breaker in a top secret section of the British Admiralty.  As the codes are broken, Isabel and her colleagues know that a German submarine is threatening to torpedo shipping in the Atlantic.  They are concerned about the Lusitania but feel her speed and maneuverability will keep her safe.

I don't want to give away the story besides the obvious sinking of the ship, but the plot was very interesting and the characters were well drawn.  The descriptions of the ship and life in the different classes aboard were fascinating and seemed well researched.  I also really like Isabel's parallel story of a girl who worked in a man's world breaking codes.

I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it.  It's a great read!
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This historical novel is set in 1915 and is based around the RMS Lusitania.   The book, thankfully, avoids the tired, and clichéd, dual time line – although it does have a dual storyline.  Part of the book is set around the story of two American heiresses, Sydney and Brooke Sinclair, while the other section is set in London, where the storyline centres on Isabel Nelson who volunteers for war work at the Admiralty.

Brooke Sinclair is engaged to be married to Edward Thorpe-Tracey, who arrives in New York to escort his fiancée, and her sister, back to England for their marriage.   Edward is keen to marry before he goes off to war and, although he does not really love Brooke, he needs her money to save his family home.   Brooke, meanwhile, is keen to gain a title and is also eager to keep Edward apart from her sister, Sydney.  Sydney is something of an embarrassment, with her controversial politics and eagerness to embrace the suffragette cause.   Indeed, the sisters are such opposites that Sydney decides to travel on Lusitania in third class, causing all sorts of misunderstandings between Brooke, Edward and other passengers.   This plot device also, obviously, allows the author to explore parts of the ship outside of first class and introduce different characters.   Interestingly, some of the characters are based upon the authors own family history and so have real authenticity about them.   There are other, real life people mentioned in the book, such as Alfred Vanderbilt, who Edward feels a certain envy towards, due to the freedom his wealth awards him.

Alongside the part of the novel centred on Lusitania, we read of Isabel Nelson.   She had previously worked as a housemaid for George Chambers in Oxford, who taught her some morse code.   Keen to volunteer for War Work, Isabel is thrilled to be assigned to Room 40 OB, under Commander Hope and Alastair Denniston, who spend their time deciphering code.   Although she is only there to type up messages, she quickly enjoys the sense of comradeship.  However, when Isabel discovers a secret message,  it makes her question the role of the work she is involved in.   Secrets play a larger part in the story though, with the arrival of Mildred, who knows about Isabel’s past…

I must admit that I have a fondness for books set on ships – particularly Lusitania or Titanic.   This is a very interesting novel, which deals with both the tragedy of the sinking of the Lusitania and also with the role of women.  You have Sydney who is interesting in the political rights of women and who admires Margaret Sander, a controversial advocate for women’s reproductive rights; Isabel who is keen to put her past behind her and establish a career, in a world where women’s ambitions are limited and the interesting concept of forced marriage, where it is Edward who actually feels more under pressure to marry for money.   An excellent novel for fans of historical fiction and two headstrong, and intelligent, heroines in Sydney and Isabel.  I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
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