EXCERPT: The letter landed on the mat, just as Imogen walked into the narrow hall from the kitchen. She usually ignored the uninteresting brown envelopes that slipped through the letter box. They lay undisturbed for days in an untidy pile until she was forced to gather them up simply to open the door. But even at a distance, this handwritten envelope was intriguing. In spite of her arthritis, she bent down slowly and retrieved it, along with the pile of bills, and carried them through to the conservatory at the back of the house, Winter sun streamed in as she sat down in her favourite wicker armchair. She laid the unwanted mail on the kelim covered footstool in front of her and examined the handwritten envelope, noting the German postmark and slid her long elegant finger under the flap.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: Germany, 1939: Thirteen-year-old Magda is devastated by the loss of her best friend, shy and gentle Lotte, cruelly snatched from her and sent to a concentration camp – the Star of David sewn on her faded, brown coat. As the Nazi’s power takes hold, Magda realizes she’s not like the other girls in her village – she hates the fanatical new rules of the Hitler Youth. So Magda secretly joins The White Rose movement and begins to rebel against the oppressive, frightening world around her.
But when an English RAF pilot lands in a field near Magda’s home she is faced with an impossible choice: to risk the lives of her family or to save a stranger and make a difference in the war she desperately wants to end.
England, 1939: Fifteen-year-old Imogen is torn from her family and evacuated to the Lake District, a haven of safety away from the war raging across Europe. All she has to connect her to the bombs and the battles are the letters she writes to her loved ones. Little does she know, on the other side of the enemy line, her fate rests on the actions of one girl who will change her life forever…
MY THOUGHTS: I didn’t get what I was expecting…..and that was a secret revealed by a long lost letter that, through some circumstance, suddenly comes to light. To that end I think the book is mis-named. But that really is my only criticism of The Secret Letter. There is a secret letter, written by Karl to his sister Magda which, although he demands that she destroy it after reading, she hides in her bible.
What I did get was a beautifully written story, based on reality, set during WWII. The characters are well fleshed out and totally believable, as is the plot. The story begins with a letter received by Imogen in 2018, from Magda, a woman in Germany who had met Imogen’s husband during the war, inviting her to Germany. The story then backtracks to 1939 and we experience the war through the eyes of two young women, Magda in Germany and Imogen in England, firstly as schoolgirls then as young women helping with the war effort, before coming back to 2018/19 for a reunion of the survivors.
I think that because the author has based some of the story on the wartime experiences of her parents, there is an enhanced sense of reality; of people just getting on with it as best they could. While the war itself was inhumane, there were a lot of instances where people went to extreme lengths to help others, and these actions form the heart of this book. In the author’s own words, ‘I wanted more than anything else to explore the humanity that exists in wartime – the acts of selflessness and nobility, as well as the love and loss that affected ordinary people…..I also discovered acts of great courage performed by those who chose to rebel against the Nazi regime.’
Debbie Rix has done a wonderful job of portraying the ordinary people who had to fight and whose lives were devastated by the war. She has included them all, from the woman who simply went to bed and didn’t get up again, to those who put their own lives on the line.
This is the first book I have read by this author. It won’t be the last.
I started writing novels after a long career in broadcasting and journalism. My first novel – The Girl with Emerald Eyes (originally published as ‘Secrets of the Tower’ in March 2015), is set in two time zones – the modern day and 12th century. It explores the extraordinary woman who left the money to build the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
My second novel: Daughters of the Silk Road follows the journey of a family of merchant explorers who return to Venice from China with a Ming Vase. The book again straddles two time zones.
The Silk Weaver’s Wife was published in 2017 and is set in the world of the Italian silk industry. The period story follows the journey of a young Veronese woman who is forced into an abusive marriage. The modern heroine uncovers her remarkable story.
My last two novels are set in 20th century. ‘The Photograph’ tells the story of Hungarian refugee Rachael who escapes to London from Budapest in 1956. Travelling to Sardinia with her archaeologist father, she meets the man who will change her life. Meanwhile in 2018, her anthropologist grand-daughter Sophie is struggling with infertility. As their two stories intertwine, Sophie uncovers her grandmother’s secret.
My latest novel: ‘The Secret Letter’ is due out on 22nd July. It explores the lives of two young girls in the 2nd world war – Imogen separated from her parents as an evacuee, and Magda who is determined to fight the Nazi regime. Their lives are brought together by a young RAF pilot. The story is based in part on the extraordinary experiences of my father who escaped a German prisoner of war camp at the end of the war.
I live in Kent with my family, four cats and chickens.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Secret Letter by Debbie Rix for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, and my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2891283309