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Their Finest Hour And A Half Hardcover – 26 Feb 2009


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (26 Feb. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385614233
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385614238
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 3.6 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 254,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"[Lissa Evans] displays a fine eye for detail and for the absurdities involved in filming. She also brilliantly evokes the disruption and dangers of wartime London. This funny, heart-warming and beautifully crafted novel is a must-read" (Daily Mail)

"Beautifully written, minutely observed and researched, evocative and very funny tale" (Michele Hanson Guardian)

"Comic, poignant and altogether delightful, raised spirits are guaranteed" (Easy Living)

"This is a comic novel, but far warmer in tone and broader in scope than that label would suggest...Gloriously observed...Hilliard is a wonderful creation - and Evans's recreated propaganda scripts are a total joy. Delicious" (The Times)

"Pitch-perfect in tone and populated by some unforgettable characters, Lissa Evans's blackly comic new novel is a delight" (The Gloss Magazine)

Review

This funny, heart-warming and beautifully crafted novel is a must-read.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER on 3 April 2010
Format: Paperback
Evans has written an amusing tale of Britain on the Home Front in the Second World War, seen through the POV of a film crew churning out Ministry Of Information Films as part of the war effort, specifically designed to try and bring America into the war.

As I'm particularly fond of novels about theatre, film et al, the background of the story appealed. Evans is perhaps a little too free with the role of coincidence to drive the plot forward, and her characters, through quite nicely quirky, don't really stray too far from their own 'types', and I'd say the book, at 414 pages of quite small type (I assume to try and stop it being an obviously overlong book of 600 pages of a more normal size typeface) is overlong, and needed some drastic pruning.

An enjoyable read, but I'm unlikely to want to revisit it again - despite the enjoyable creation of the rampantly egotistical actor Ambrose Hilliard - though it does make me want to dust off a couple of theatre novels with a much stronger smell of greasepaint lingering in the memory than Their Finest Hour and a Half provided for olfactory celluloid!

Now, where are J.B. Priestley's The Good Companions (Penguin modern classics) and Michael Blakemore's Next Season, with their differently wonderful evocations of live theatre.....
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By D. Harris TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 April 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Finest Hour" follows the making, during the early days of the Second World War, of a film about Dunkirk, intended to lift British spirits (and enthuse American ones). This film is based on a story that never happened (or, at least, is greatly exaggerated) and it is done on a shoestring. The description of the film's production is fascinating (and often funny - for example the way in which the writer is kept in his (or her) place).

Lissa Evans brings together the stories of some of the cast and crew and of the development of the film itself against a background of the London blitz. All the characters are portrayed well, especially Ambrose Hilliard, embittered and fading actor, whose grim memories of the previous war surface at times and, and Catrin Cole, who ends up, more or less by accident, helping to write the film.

The book has funny moments, tender moments and sad moments. It creates an entirely believable atmosphere of wartime London, populated by convincing characters who one sympathises with more and more. It is also something of a page turner. The whole things is cleverly structured as a cinema programme, from the "trailers", though "informational shorts", to the "main feature" and finally, "forthcoming attractions". Overall, it is excellent.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Geraldine on 20 April 2009
Format: Hardcover
Endearing, engrossing, excellent, this novel is an easy read, with a feeling of real people during the war, which is just happening around them. You live this period, rather like David Fiddimore's Tuesday's War, and you feel for the 3 main characters, the capable modern woman, the lonely spinster and even the egocentric actor, Ambrose. Highly recommended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Graceann Macleod on 26 April 2009
Format: Hardcover
Lissa Evans does a masterful job of bringing together many voices in order to tell intertwining stories: a lonely seamstress looking for a change, a young writer learning the ropes in the film industry via morale-boosting propaganda, and a fading actor who is the only one sure that he's still in his prime. These are all excellent, engaging characters, with their own foibles, quirks and unique voices.

Baker Films has been commissioned to create a film based on a rescue made at Dunkirk, and though the facts of the story are dubious, it will make for a ripping yarn and a shot in the arm for Blitz-weary Brits (and perhaps it will encourage the still-neutral States to lend a hand). There are three main characters, all well-developed, and numerous others who populate this rich, layered novel. I fell in love with Buckley and even with sweet Arthur Frith, who polishes his spectacles as a nervous habit and isn't quite sure why he's suddenly on a film set.

Their Finest Hour and a Half brings together several of my loves: history, film, humor and skillful writing. Not only are those loves united, but united seamlessly and entertainingly. Shot through with laughter, warmth and a touch of cynicism, this book is a keeper.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By BookFiend on 1 April 2012
Format: Paperback
I'm a keen fan of all novels relating to WW2, but it's rare to encounter one about the 'Home Front' and this entertaining but nonetheless realistic novel paints a great picture of several characters involved in producing a morale-boosting, America-tempting film about the Dunkirk evacuation, or at least, a rapidly fictionalised version of it! There's romance and humour, pathos and tenderness AND a dog - where a work like Sarah Waters' 'The Night Watch' shows the grittiest side of WW2 life in the UK, this achieves the far from easy trick of being both uplifting and grounded, moving and cheerful. I was drawn in and read the whole thing in one evening and thoroughly enjoyed it.
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Format: Paperback
I picked this up in a charity shop, and I'm so glad I did. A delightfully fresh and original take on the home front in World War 2, with a wide cast of vivid characters and a real flavour of how it must have seemed to those who had to live through the nightly bombings, the awful food, and the sometimes bizarre and ridiculous bureaucracy. All this and two dogs as well!
To those who might be put off by the few one and two star reviews, I'd say - don't be. Most of those reviewers don't even seem to have finished the book, and appear to want thrills on every page, nuanced character sacrificed to unnecessarily complicated plotting and, most weirdly, an absence of four-letter words (not that this book is exactly peppered with them). In other words, they don't want real life, and real life streams off its pages. Read it, and laugh, and weep, and be thankful that we no longer live in such 'interesting times'.
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