The Light Over London

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

This was an endearing historical fiction novel that bounced back and forth between the past (during WWII) and the present. The main character Cara was relateable, although a bit run-down in a sense but it was to be expected after having her life fall apart with the recent death of her parents and then her divorce. 

The relationship developing with the neighbor was a bit forced, but it did help to push the story forward and made the story seem a bit more of a romance novel.

I loved learning about Louise and the Gunner Girls. I didn't know about this section of women in the war and was fascinated to learn about this role of women and how instrumental they were!
Was this review helpful?
Great book, First time I read this author. She wove together a good story that I enjoyed. I enjoy reading a book with good character development. This book did not disappoint.
Was this review helpful?
The Light Over London by Julia Kelly is a beautifully, written piece of historical fiction with depth, graceful prose and unexpected events.

Cara Hargraves is trying to leave her past behind by focusing on her present and future pursuits.  To that end, she takes a position working in antiquities.  While clearing out a client’s estate, Cara finds a “World War II-era diary and a photograph of a young woman in uniform” named Louise Keene.  Louise, a 19 year old, writes her most personal feelings throughout the diary.  Clara reads Louise’s journal and takes the historical adventure with her all while trying to find Louise (or her family) to return the diary to them.

As a huge fan of historical fiction, I loved The Light Over London.  This work switches back and forth between different timelines, events and time periods seamlessly.  The juxtaposition of war times and current day were beautifully crafted in prose which were set to the backdrop of relationships, love and resilience. I enjoyed this read very much!

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley for my honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Synopsis from the Publisher/NetGalley.com
Reminiscent of Martha Hall Kelly's Lilac Girls and Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, this sweeping, entrancing story is a must-read for fans of remarkable women rising to challenges they could never have predicted. 

It’s always been easier for Cara Hargraves to bury herself in the past than confront the present, which is why working with a gruff but brilliant antiques dealer is perfect. While clearing out an estate, she pries open an old tin that holds the relics of a lost relationship: among the treasures, a World War II-era diary and a photograph of a young woman in uniform. Eager to find the author of the hauntingly beautiful, unfinished diary, Cara digs into this soldier’s life, but soon realizes she may not have been ready for the stark reality of wartime London she finds within the pages.

In 1941, nineteen-year-old Louise Keene’s life had been decided for her—she’ll wait at home in her Cornish village until her wealthy suitor returns from war to ask for her hand. But when Louise unexpectedly meets Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton, a dashing RAF pilot stationed at a local base, everything changes. And changes again when Paul’s unit is deployed without warning.

Desperate for a larger life, Louise joins the women’s branch of the British Army in the anti-aircraft gun unit as a Gunner Girl. As bombs fall on London, she and the other Gunner Girls relish in their duties to be exact in their calculations, and quick in their identification of enemy planes during air raids. The only thing that gets Louise through those dark, bullet-filled nights is knowing she and Paul will be together when the war is over. But when a bundle of her letters to him are returned unanswered, she learns that wartime romance can have a much darker side.

Illuminating the story of these two women separated by generations and experience, Julia Kelly transports us to World War II London in this heartbreakingly beautiful novel through forgotten antique treasures, remembered triumphs, and fierce family ties.
Was this review helpful?
Very well written historical story. There was a bit of everything in it which made for a very enjoyable read. I didn't want it to end
Was this review helpful?
First of all, comparing this book to The Nightingale or Lilac Girls as was done in the publicity materials for this book is ludicrous.  The Nightingale, especially, is one of my favorite all-time books and is a great work in historical woman's fiction.  The Light Over London, while enjoyable, is a piece of romantic fluff with a WWII setting.  I like the characters and I like the time switching, which doesn't always work for me in novels but seems to work here.
Was this review helpful?
The novel is told in dual storylines. I found Louise's storyline more enjoyable than Cara's. As a romance lover I was fine with the romantic plots that some reviewers mentioned they did not expect.  The novel was well written and enjoyable. I would read another historical fiction novel by the author again.
Was this review helpful?
The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

Brief Summary: Cara is looking for a new start and finds an old WWII diary in her work for an antique shop. Louise is feeling trapped in her Cornish village, expected to marry. After she falls for a dashing pilot who is soon deployed, she runs away to enlist and join the Gunner Girls. The Gunner Girls are tasked with shooting down German planes during the blitz of London. 

Highlights: I loved the diary aspect and the way that the past and the present story lines collide. I love the timeless theme of women breaking free for the lives of duty and obligation they were expected to live. I didn’t know about the Gunner Girls or about women serving in the line of fire. I thought the twist at the end of Louise’s story probably happened more then it’s used in WWII fiction stories. 

Explanation of Rating: 4/5: I was very wrapped up in finishing this book. 

Favorite Quotes: “It would be dangerous; but what they would do would matter.” “Do you ever worry that the more you dig into Iris’s past the more likely it is that you will find something you wish you didn’t know? Constantly; but I need to know.”

One of the best endorsements that I can give a book is that I bought my own hard copy before I even finished my electronic ARC. I am recommending this read to all my historical fiction loving friends! 

Thank you to Net Galley and Gallery Books for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review
Was this review helpful?
In present-day Gloucestershire, England, Cara Hargraves is working for Wilson’s Antiques and Curiosities when she discovers an old diary in an armoire at an estate she and her boss are sorting through.

The diary is a treasure, written during World War II by nineteen-year-old Louise Keene, who lived in Cornwall during the war. As Cara learns more about Louise through her diary entries, Kelly takes the reader back to 1940s England when Louise met airman Paul Bolton, and their wartime romance blossomed quickly.

But Louise’s mother wanted her to marry a local boy who was away serving in the military and is appalled that Louise would be interested in any other man. Frustrated with her mother’s controlling nature, Louise joined the women’s branch of the British army in the anti-aircraft gun unit.

Though Louise had led a rather sheltered life, she performed exceedingly well in her military unit, but her romance with Paul had its ups and downs as his letters revealed a side of him that Louise had not previously experienced.

As Cara continues to read Louise’s diary, she would like to be able to return the diary to Louise’s family and find out how Louise’s story ends. Cara receives some welcome assistance in her quest from her new neighbor, Liam McGown, a professor.

Sparks fly between Cara and Liam though both are a little shy of getting involved as Cara has endured a difficult divorce, and Liam’s engagement ended not long ago.

Readers of historical fiction where past and present are both well represented will adore this novel. Richly developed characters, effortless plotting, a healthy dose of mystery, and unanticipated twists and turns fill the pages to create a memorable read that is impossible to put down.
Was this review helpful?
More romance than historical fiction. I would've preferred less romance & more history, The dual narrative is well written but a little too fluffy for my liking.
Was this review helpful?
Historical Fiction is always one of my favorites so I was excited to read this. I felt it read more of a romance than historical fiction and came away feeling that I didn't learn enough, if that makes sense ! Drawing on two parallel storylines, it tells of Cara, who works for an antique dealer and finds a diary from a WWII “gunner girl”. We read about Louise as Cara reads her diary and determines to find out more about her. I enjoyed how it moved back and forth between past and present . Overall , it was a lovely story. Not exactly what I was expecting but I know it will be enjoyed by my friends and I definitely will recommend it!
Was this review helpful?
This book focuses on two young women from different time periods. Cara, is a young woman who is newly divorced and trying to find her new place in life. She works for an antique shop and discovers a journal written by a woman during World War II. She is determined to find out who the author of the journal is. She is also finding herself wanted to know more about her Grandmother’s life during the war; a life that her grandmother has refused to talk about for Cara’s entire life. 

Louise, the author of the journal, is also trying to find her new place in life. After starting a romance with a pilot, whom her mother does not approve of, she runs away from home and began working as one of the ack women during World War II. She develops great friendships with the other ack women. We learn about her love life with the pilot both through her journal and when the story is written from her point of view. 

I found both story lines intriguing and almost feel they could have been split into two books (though I do appreciate what the author was doing). While their lives somewhat intertwine there is a lot that does not. I would have liked to learn even more about Louise, her work as an ack and what happened to her after the war. Also, throughout the book it is such a mystery as to secrets Cara’s grandmother was keeping about her earlier life and it would been nice to see her character and story line more fleshed out. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book and it was a nice light read. I think of it more as romantic than historical fiction. 

Thank you to Netgalley, Julia Kelly and Gallery Books for an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I tried to read this book but it was a DNF.  I wanted to love it but I just couldn't connect with the main characters. i am disappointed.  I am not sure if it's me.

Thank you for the opportunity to read and review this book.

I will not publish a review of this book in my blog.
Was this review helpful?
Review will be posted on 2/4/19
Cara Hargraves is newly divorced and training to be an antiques dealer.  While working on a job site with her mentor and boss, she comes across a mysterious tin that holds a diary and some photos that date back to World War II.  She is instantly intrigued about the diary and is determined to reunite it with its owner.  Chapters switch between present day Cara to Louise Keene, a young woman from a coastal village in England, who we come to realize is the woman in the photo that Cara unearths.  Louise is living a very simple life with her parents and working at a shop in the village.  It's a very mundane life until her very gregarious cousin, Kate, invites her to a dance.  Louise goes not expecting much though as her overbearing mother thinks she will marry a local boy who is off at war.  When Louise goes to the dance, she is immediately thrown into Kate's group of outgoing friends and meets Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton.  He is mysterious, good looking, and makes her heart skip a beat. Their romance ensues much to the dismay of her mother, but this all changes when Paul gets unexpectedly deployed.  Louise decides she doesn't want to spend the rest of her life with her mother dictating her every move and stuck in her childhood bedroom, so she decides to, along with Kate, join the women's branch of the British Army and trains to become a gunner girl.  Julia Kelly's The Light Over London is perfect for fans of wartime fiction. If you like your historical novels with a strong side of romance and drama then this novel is a good fit for you.  

I instantly liked Louise as she is the type of character that you can't help but care about in The Light Over London.  Her mother is so overbearing; it is suffocating. I couldn't wait for her to get out of the Cornish countryside and everything that is holding her back.  I didn't always agree with Louise's decisions, but I did care about her and was hoping she would get her happy ending.  I loved going along on her journey with her as she trains with the British Army. I had no idea bout gunner girls and I found it utterly fascinating. I love that more people and authors are focusing on the untold stories of women's roles in the war. I think that is important and I appreciate that Kelly showcases the gunner girls and their role in the anti-aircraft unit.  

While I enjoyed Louise, I didn't always appreciate her relationship with Paul in The Light Over London. I wanted him to be a good guy, but there were some red flags raised...not to mention how quickly their romance ensued. Let's just say that Paul is a man that has many secrets and all of them will come to the surface as the story progresses.

Cara's story is featured in alternating chapters in The Light Over London and while I liked her character, I wasn't drawn to her story as much as Louise's.  I find sometimes that happens with dual-timeline historical novels. I did like how Cara slowly learns about Louise's story and this also inspires her to connect with her grandmother about the war as well and uncover a few family secrets of her own. 

While this historical novel doesn't pack an emotional punch like The Nightingale or Salt to the Sea,   I still found it to be charming and I especially appreciated learning more about the British Army's gunner girls.
Was this review helpful?
There are two parallel stories in this one. Cara works for an antiques dealer and, while looking through someone’s estate, she discovers an old diary hidden away; she is given permission to take it and try to find out to whom it belonged. It attracted her attention because there was a photo of a young woman in an RAF uniform, and Cara’s grandmother had also been part of the Royal Air Force during the war. In fact, Cara’s grandmother won’t talk about the war, and Cara desperately wants to hear about it. 

In the diary, Louise lives in a small town and her mother expects her to marry a nice boy, Gary, who has gone to war. When she meets the charming Paul at a dance, she falls hard for him, but due to a fallout at home, she leaves and joins the army, where she ends up being one of the very few “Ack-Ack Girls” or “Gunner Girls”, helping with anti-aircraft guns. 

I really liked this. Initially, I liked both stories equally well, but as it continued, I did prefer Louise’s story. There were some twists at the end, though I did figure out one of Cara’s Gran’s twists. The Ack-Ack Girls were a part of WWII that I didn’t know anything about, so it was interesting to read about. There was a wealth of information given about them and it was a great piece of history that seems like it gets overlooked.
Was this review helpful?
This could have been a fascinating book about one of the first and only woman bombers in WWII. The woman's story is interesting but for some reason the author juxtapositions the tale of modern day antique dealer, Cara, who discovers the diary in a house of furniture being prepared for auction. This odd pairing leads to an average historical romance instead of an illuminating look at underreported aspect of women roles during the War. What a sad missed opportunity.
Was this review helpful?
Dual narratives currently appear to be popular in historical fiction.  The recent novel, The Gown, uses this structure.  These books offer the perspective of the present while exploring an earlier time and demonstrating that, whatever the period, characters look for meaning, relationships and safety.  In this enjoyable novel by Julia Kelly, the reader gets to know Cara in the present and Louise  during WWII.  The device that links them is the diary that Cara, an antiques expert, finds when she is evaluating the objects in the home of a character with a link to Louise.

When the novel opens, Louise is living with her parents and is a dutiful daughter who dreams of one day moving to California with its sunshine and greater educational opportunities.  However, her present is WWII Cornwall where she meets and falls for Paul.  The evolution of their relationship is a key part of the novel. 

The war provides Louise with the opportunity to enlist and leave her small community.  She becomes an "ack-ack girl."  According to the website The Female Soldier, ack-ack girls "were members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) that helped operate Anti-Aircraft Guns in the defense of Britain from German bombing raids during World War 2."  Louise becomes an integral member of an integrated male/female unit.  She writes extensively to Paul while in the service.  Will they have a happily ever after?  You will need to read the novel to find out.

Cara, following a recent divorce, is giving most of her attention to her job until she meets a neighbor.  Their relationship evolves.  Will they have their happy ever after? 

Throughout the book, Cara discovers Louise through her diaries, just as the reader does.  These entries form an integral part of the narrative. 

There are other stories as well, especially that of Cara's grandmother who does not want to talk about her wartime life and who appears to be harboring a secret.  Cara wants to know all that she can while her grandmother is alive to tell her. Will she find out?

Each of these narrative threads is handled well by the author and I very much enjoyed reading this novel.  I experienced more of what it was like to live in London during wartime and connected with the characters and their stories. My only caveat would be that some of the physical romance feels a bit formulaic while it is the relationships that are more interesting.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this e-galley in exchange for an honest review.  I recommend Light Over London to those who enjoy historical novels set during the second world war.
Was this review helpful?
historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and I always love seeing how authors portray WWII. I have read many books about Poland and Germany, but have found that not many have focused on England during this time, so I loved that the author did! The story is fantastic - I was so immersed in the world of Louise and Cara and found this to be such a great, interesting read! Fans of Lilac Girls and The Nightingale will really enjoy this one
Was this review helpful?
Cara Hargraves finds a diary and starts to connect with the story of a WWII soldier.  Cara is overwhelmed by the realities of war.
Was this review helpful?
World War II has always been an era that has fascinated me.  Once man's hatred changed the course of history and changed everyone's lives.  The trajectory of the world was changed in a short span of time, everyone called to fight for their lives and for their freedom, becoming people they never thought they would ever be.

Louise is a nineteen year old girl from a small town outside of England, destined to marry a man she didn't love, living the life her mother wanted her to live, and dreaming of living a life of personal freedom while the war raged on mere miles away.  In a diary Louise writes about her dreams, her issues with her mother, and her experience being dragged to a dance with her cousin Kate.  It is that fateful night that she meets Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton and it is love at first sight.

The blossoming love gives Louise the courage she needs to finally take control of her life and live it on her terms.  Louise joins the ATS or Auxiliary Territorial Service and becomes a gunner girl, apart of the Ack-Ack Girls, and serves her country in the war.

Years later Cara, a girl that works for an antique and curiosities house, discovers Louise's diary and longs to find the unknown author and find the missing pieces to the antique puzzle.

The mystery that Cara is trying to reveal is paralleled with Louise's journey throughout her life and journal, as well as Cara's personal struggle of adjusting to life after a divorce, and unearthing a family mystery of her own.

The Lights Over London has a lot going on but it all intertwines and makes sense in the end.  The characters are so realistic, I felt like Louise and Kate could've been branches in my own family tree.  You feel sympathetic to their plights, with moments of sadness and anger, and though pretty predicable, you read on just to make sure that everything works out in the end.

For those that are clean readers, there are a few parts with some sexual content but it is mild and does not take away from the tale but goes along with the story.

I throughly enjoyed The Lights Over London and now want to learn more about the brave women of the ATS and the Ack-Ack Girls.
Was this review helpful?
The Light Over London is a very enjoyable WWII novel. It is not really a take on the British war effort that I had read before. First, I had read about the female ambulance drivers and the battle field nurses but I was not aware that there were female anti-aircraft teams. That is so cool. It is one of those things where you say look at what these girls did, you can never say they are incapable of doing anything again.

Secondly, the love story was a little different and I liked that it was a twist I did not see. I would recommend this novel to any reader. The two POV characters help keep the story flowing and the diary entries as division between Cara and Louise is nice as well.
Was this review helpful?