Cliffehaven, June 1944
As the planes continue to circle over Cliffehaven, Peggy Reilly’s sister Doris must seek refuge after a V-1 blast destroys her home. Rita, Sarah and the other residents at Beach View Boarding House quickly find their peace disturbed and it’s not long before even Peggy loses her patience. But with more bad news to come, will Doris finally be forced to swallow her pride?
Meanwhile Peggy’s father-in-law Ron Reilly is delighted when his sweetheart Rosie returns home. Until a heart-breaking confession suggests things may never be the same between them.
With loved ones scattered far and wide across the globe, and tensions running high, the end of the war feels somehow further than ever. And yet with the long-awaited Allied invasion in sight, a glimmer of light is starting to break through...
I'm delighted to be hosting the first stop on the blog tour for As the Sun Breaks Through by Ellie Dean today. Many thanks to the author and Becky McCarthy from Penguin Random House for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.
It's always such a pleasure to return to Cliffehaven; this is now the fifteenth book in Ellie Dean's wartime saga and though only the third I have read, it already feels like returning to old friends. The tide of war is definitely turning and there's an air of hope surrounding the residents of Beach View Boarding House. Naturally it's not all plain sailing however, particularly as Peggy Reilly's dreadful sister, Doris has moved in after her house was destroyed by a Doodlebug. We saw an overburdened Peggy in the previous novel, With a Kiss and a Prayer but this time she's better supported and is a determined woman who will take no nonsense - especially from her sister. I'm sure I won't be the only one to cheer when Doris finally pushes her too far...
As with any long running saga, it's preferable to start from the beginning to fully appreciate the history of the characters but Ellie Dean always includes just enough back story to welcome new readers and it shouldn't take long for anybody starting here to become engrossed in the lives of the people of Cliffehaven. Though most of the book is set in the seaside town, some scenes are set in Burma again, where Peggy's husband, Jim is still fighting the Japanese. I sometimes feel that the war in the Far East is a little neglected in fiction but not so here, as the intense, energy sapping heat and perilous jungle terrain is brought vividly to life. The Japanese are slowly being overcome but still present a terrible danger and there's always a nerve-wracking feeling to the passages featuring Jim as injury and death never feels too far away here. When the monsoon starts, the rains should provide a blessed relief but soon the deluge brings back unwanted memories of the trench warfare of the First World War for Jim. His father, Ron also fought in that war and the pair are still haunted by the terrible things they witnessed.
This is really a series about those left behind and the constant worry they had for their loved ones fighting so far from home is portrayed with honesty and compassion. These are women who spend their days dreading a telegram, and the effect is has on everybody when one is delivered is almost palpable. Lives have been torn apart by the war and the suffering isn't over yet as more lives are lost or forever changed by injury. Though the reader is never left in any doubt as to how emotionally and physically draining those long years were, the indefatigable spirit of the people shines through too. Ellie Dean juxtaposes the difficult times with scenes of love, joy and humour and there is much to celebrate in As the Sun Breaks Through. The birth of babies is always special but particularly so in wartime and Mother Hen, Peggy looks forward to her brood growing bigger as Cliffehaven prepares to welcome more new arrivals. Romance is in the air too, both among the young and those who have a few more years on the clock and it turns out that it's never too late for people to change. The sense of community is truly touching as the residents of Cliffehaven help each other out time and again and I don't mind admitting I felt the prickle of tears a few times. Though the violence of war may be the worst that mankind can inflict on one another, the humanity of ordinary people persists even through the darkest days.
As the Sun Breaks Through has been my favourite of the Cliffehaven novels I have read so far. I've grown to love these characters and have become deeply invested in their lives. This many be fiction and as such it is never short of drama but the historical details add a real authenticity to the proceedings and are so evocative too. With the liberation of Paris, the war in Europe will be over soon but with our hindsight we know that's it's not all smooth sailing from here on and there's some ominous foreshadowing that there are still difficult times ahead, particularly as the full extent of Nazi atrocities becomes known. This has now become a must-read series for me and I'm eagerly looking forward to the publication of next instalment, On a Turning Tide next year.
As the Sun Breaks Through will be published by Arrow Books on 23rd August 2018 and can be purchased from Amazon, Hive or your local bookshop. Don't forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, details are below.
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