AVAILABLE August 2, 2022
Where the Sky Begins broke new ground for this book blogger. It is the first full-length WWII novel I’ve read by Rhys Bowen and, even more exciting, it is the first Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) I’ve downloaded from NetGalley.
When we think of great literary heroines we think of Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennett, and Scarlett O’Hara, to name a few. I’m going to add Josie Banks to that list. I loved this character.
A London East Ender (“the slums,” as she describes it,) Josie is stuck in a frustrating life, one that never felt like her own. She helped raise several younger siblings and her brash, Cockney husband, Stan, wants nothing more than a simple, passive little wife. But Josie is smart. Very smart. She made high marks in school and showed great potential. But potential for what?
It doesn’t matter now, because as World War II escalates, all plans are interrupted. Stan is called up and Josie finds herself shuffled off to the countryside, billeted in the dilapidated mansion of reclusive, elderly Miss Harcourt and her grumpy Irish housekeeper, Kathleen. Yes, Josie has a roof over her head and food to eat, but little else.
It’s situations like this that make or break a person. Josie refuses to be broken. Her intelligence, fortitude, dignity, and kind heart will be her greatest assets.
This is a book I could not put down. (Yesterday I had the tired eyes to prove it.) Following Josie on her journey was exhausting but rewarding. Her endurance is admirable and her story is epic. I was immersed in Rhys Bowen’s world. Not just the fleshed-out characters, but the sights and sounds of the time period. Air raid sirens, criss-crossing searchlights, neighbors crowded together in shelters, families being separated, scared young pilots–all of it springs to life in vivid detail with a plot that takes many unexpected turns. At the center of it all is Josie Banks, whose strength and compassion elevate everyone around her.
I highly recommend Where the Sky Begins. Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for this advanced copy.