Book Review - What We Did in the War
If you were given the chance to start again, would you take it? That is 'Cecil' and 'Claude's' dilemma in What We Did in the War by Jennie Walters.

If you were given the chance to start again, would you take it? That is ‘Cecil’ and ‘Claude’s’ dilemma in What We Did in the War by Jennie Walters.

Thank you to Anne of Random Things Tours for sending me a free copy of What We Did in the War in return for an honest review.

‘Cecil’ and ‘Claude’ meet by chance in a restaurant in London during World War II. As they chat outside, suddenly a Doodlebug bomb drops above them, and they both flee together. In the aftermath of the explosion, they realise that they could both escape their current lives. Cecil has recently inherited a flat in London and Claude steals a handbag to use a dead woman’s ID and ration book, and they decide to live together and have a fresh start. The book starts in the 1950s and both women now detest each other, and as we read the 1944 section, we begin to uncover why.

You can find What We Did in the War on Amazon and read more reviews on Goodreads. It’s also available through Kindle Unlimited.

My review

I love history and so I occasionally enjoy reading historical fiction, and I am so glad I read What We Did in the War! I loved the atmosphere throughout the book and small mentions of the stresses that everyone is facing, such as the tension of the Doodle Bugs and not knowing when they might drop or if you will wake up in the morning, and the stress of rationing and queuing for hours only to find the shop has sold out of essentials.

The centre of the novel is the relationship between ‘Claude’ and ‘Cecil’. I was totally gripped by the dynamics between the two. Claude is definitely someone who others would gravitate towards – she is funny and extroverted. She is really struggling with confinement as she is forced to hide in the flat, and I really sympathised with her. Cecil, on the other hand, is anxious and quieter, and works full-time. Of the two characters I absolutely related more with Claude, her whole situation sounded so difficult and as an extrovert myself I could see why she was struggling! Floss was also a great character and I was rooting for her throughout the book.

As the book progresses and the relationship between the two becomes more toxic, I just couldn’t put this book down. I gasped audibly a few times while reading! There lots of secrets revealed about both characters that I hadn’t expected. I really liked the way that the author handled the switches between the past and the ‘present day’, and the way that the puzzle was slowly uncovered.

This is an amazing read and I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking for a character-driven thriller. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Jennie’s work and reading more from her in the future!

The blurb for What We Did in the War

Can you ever let go of the past? Two women unhappy with their lives seize a chance to start over during a WWII bombing raid, in this dramatic and suspenseful novel.

London, 1944: As bombs start raining from the sky, two women rush out of a restaurant, leaving their possessions behind. Their chance meeting amid the chaos and destruction will have long-lasting consequences. Both beset by desperate problems, they take advantage of the wartime chaos to escape their humdrum lives and start again. .Sticking together, the pair live under the radar, using a stolen ration book to feed themselves and relying on a street kid’s help to get by. Cecil eventually finds work, while glamorous, feckless Claude looks after the flat—or doesn’t. Gradually their friendship sours and resentment creeps in. Just as Cecil is wondering whether she should ever have trusted Claude in the first place, she makes a shocking discovery—one that will expose a web of secrets, lead to an act of violence, and set the two on separate and very different paths.

About the author, Jennie Walters

Jennie has always been interested in stories. She was constantly daydreaming as a child, studied English at university and worked in publishing before leaving to write books of her own. Author of the Swallowcliffe Hall series for young adults, she also writes historical fiction under the name of Daisy Wood. The heroines of What We Did in the War, Cecil and Claude, first crept into her head in the course of a Creative Writing MA at City University, London, and she has been rewriting their story since then: approximately a hundred years. Finally, here it is – a true labour of love!

Blog tour organised by Random Things Tours

I reviewed What We Did in the War as part of a book tour organised by Anne of Random Things Tours. Check out the other bloggers taking part in this book tour for more reviews, extracts and guest posts.