Most helpful positive review
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
A mysterious artist, World War II and a woman heart broken by grief.
on 17 July 2014
I haven't read Barbara Erskine for a long time, not since 'Lady of Hay', and I'm happy to say I enjoyed 'The Darkest Hour' and found it a very good read.
Lead character, Lucy, is recently widowed when she suddenly receives news that some money is coming her way. It's money she uses to fund research into the life and times of war artist Evie Lucas. Lucy is keen to produce a biography and so off she goes in search of the mysterious Ms. Lucas. There are reasons Lucy's intrigued by the artist that link back to her late husband but; I'm not leaving spoilers and I'm not telling you what those reasons are!.
The clever thing about stories that use genealogy is how much leverage that gives the author. There can be so many skeletons in a family cupboard and Barbara Erskine takes that idea just about as far as possible without it becoming unbelievable. We have Evie's grandson, Michael, who seems reluctant at first but then perhaps a little too keen to help. Why?. It's here the supernatural angles begin and ghosts suddenly march through the plot adding a little of their own story to fill in Evie's background history and add more and more intrigue, plus some darkness, to Lucy's research. Why do people seem so reluctant to help only to then change their minds?.
The World War II scenery is nicely evoked and the life and times of the people, how they act differently during conflict, nicely handled.
Barbara Erskine mixes her supernatural events with family research to tell the tale of a love story from the past and contrasts it against the dreadful grief threatening to overshadow Lucy. That's the joy of the novel. There's so much shadow and shade, so many strands reaching out only to be drawn together in a way that's thoroughly entertaining and believable. It's all cleverly done and the slow unveiling of Evie's life quite intriguing. Certainly kept me hooked to the point I read the novel over one weekend.
Happy to recommend this emotional, bitter sweet, novel.