by Cathryn Conroy (Gaithersburg, Maryland): Brilliant! Simply brilliant! Exquisitely written by Sarah Waters in a highly creative and imaginative format—going backward in time instead of forward—this is a World War II story about the British home front and a group of young women who are trying to make a life for themselves as the bombs fall nightly on London.

Kay, courageous and stalwart, drives an ambulance at night to rescue those whose homes and shelters have been blasted. Helen, softhearted and resolute, works in a British ministry office helping people navigate the bureaucracy after they have lost their homes. Viv, who is having an affair with a married man, is the backbone of her family after her brother, Duncan, is sent to prison. Julia, a writer of murder mysteries, is tough but tender, and causes all sorts of mischief and havoc. Most—but not all—of the women have one thing in common: They are lesbians, falling in and out of love with each other in a time of great national horror.

The storyline is one that pulls you in and won’t let go. It’s emotionally riveting, packed with historical details, unnerving at times and spellbinding at others.

But it is the literary ploy of going backward in time that makes this book so special. It is written in three parts: 1947, 1944, and 1941. Within each of these parts, the plot moves forward, but when we read the second and third parts, we already know what is going to happen, much like seeing into the future. Still, we don’t really because we don’t know how it started in the first place, and herein lies the tension—and genius—of the book.

I became utterly engrossed in the novel because I cared so deeply for the characters. I wanted to know the motivations behind their successes and failures, what gave them joy and sorrow, and how it was they managed to still be happy in a time of great tragedy and fear.

This book is absolutely brilliant! Highly recommended.