Homecoming by Ellie Dean #BookReview #BlogTour

The eighteenth and last novel in the Sunday Times bestselling Cliffhaven series! Cliffehaven, 1945. Peace has finally been declared in the Far East, but for those living at Beach View Boarding House, the news brings mixed emotions. Peggy Reilly is devastated that her husband Jim will not be coming home for Christmas. And Sarah and Jane, who have lived at Beach View throughout much of the conflict, dread what they will find when they go back to Singapore. Life in Cliffehaven is in a whirlwind of change as the men return from the war and Peggy’s evacuee chicks begin to spread their wings and start new lives in different corners of the world. Peggy and Jim have longed to be together after so many years apart, but war has left them profoundly changed. Can they rekindle the loving, close relationship they’d shared before?

It's my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Homecoming today. Many thanks to Ellie Dean and to Rachel Kennedy from Arrow Books for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

I always look forward to the next book in the Cliffehaven saga but opening Homecoming was a bittersweet moment as it's the final novel in the series. However, with the war in the Far East finally over, it does feel that this is the right time to say goodbye.
Peggy and Jim have spent years apart, longing for the time they will finally be reunited so it's a cruel blow for them both when Jim receives orders to say he is to join Operation Tiderace and instead of going home will take part in the retaking of Singapore and witness Japan's complete and unconditional surrender. It's an important reminder that the demobilisation process took time and many troops had to wait several months before they could return home.
Life isn't back to normal in Cliffehaven either and although the war is over, as Homecoming shows, the country continued to bear the effects for years afterwards. Peggy often worries about putting meals on the table, now that rationing regulations are even more tightened with the country diverting food to a starved Europe and with home-grown vegetables in short supply due to inclement weather. Several of the characters are shown to bear the emotional and physical effects of the war; from the bodily wounds inflicted in active service, to the mental anguish of what they witnessed, to the sheer exhaustion that comes from years of trying to maintain a semblance of the normal life in the face of so many challenges, all while living in fear of a telegraph bringing the worst possible news.
Change is an important theme in Homecoming and perhaps the most poignant example is that of the children who have become adults during the war years. Peggy and Jim's sons, Bob and Charlie were sent to Somerset as boys but have returned as young men. Despite their happiness at being reunited, there is an underlying sadness for the time they missed and it's particularly touching to see how Peggy worries about whether her sons will understand why they decided to send them away. Change also means renewal and Homecoming sees plenty of that, whether it's in the rebuilding of the war-damaged town, exciting home renovations or the more personal as relationships are reassessed and restored.
As always, Ellie Dean also includes chapters which follow Jim in the Far East and although he is now out of danger, these parts of the book are still the most harrowing as he takes on a role which sees him talking to the released POWs who suffered so terribly at the cruel hands of the Japanese. There is one scene which is particularly distressing as an officer tells Jim about the tortuous conditions he endured as part of the forced slave labour building the infamous Burma railway. The physical conditions were obviously horrendous but as he watched his men die of starvation, dysentery, malaria, beriberi, jungle ulcers and cholera, his rank meant he had to remain stoical, never able to show his emotions in spite of the horror that surrounded him. It's a powerful, heartbreaking moment in the book and its importance is underlined later when Jim's ship finally arrives home to little fanfare - it's no wonder that those who fought and were POW in Asia often felt forgotten about.
Two of Peggy's chicks, Sarah and Jane also travel to Singapore where they are reunited with their mother, Sybil. They hope for news about their father, Jock and Sarah's fiance, Philip but the island they return to is very different from the place they once knew. Although the ex-pat community were undoubtedly privileged and lived a rather spoiled existence, it's hard not to feel some sympathy for Sybil who has lost so much and still clings desperately to hope despite knowing it is probably futile. At first, I wasn't sure if I liked her but  although she is a product of her experiences, she reveals her compassionate side too and I found her storyline to be really quite moving.
There is still plenty of domestic drama in Homecoming, of course with new relationships formed and some which have come to an end. Despite the sadness for those lost, there is still a sense of optimism for the future and Peggy is able to indulge her love of weddings more than once here. As always, Ellie Dean also includes little glimpses into the future and to what we readers know will occur; here there is hope for the soon to be established NHS but also worry for Danuta as the news from Poland signals the rise of the Soviet Union across Eastern Europe.
Homecoming is filled with all the warmth I've come to expect from the Cliffehaven saga, there are many moving scenes and just as Peggy and Cordelia always have their handkerchiefs ready at a wedding, the tears are almost inevitable here as this wonderful series finally comes to an end. Looking back on the whole series, I can only thank Ellie Dean for writing these touching, engrossing stories which have recognised the immense sacrifices made by the men, women and children during those dark days and honoured the importance of family and the sense of community which was so vital to them all. It's sad to say goodbye but it feels right to leave the residents of Cliffehaven looking towards the future and I was absolutely delighted to learn that the author is writing about Ron and Dolly's youthful days - I can't wait to discover what that pair got up to!

Homecoming will be published by Arrow Books on 23rd January 2020, purchasing links can be found here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Ellie Dean’s compelling saga series Beach View Boarding House is set during the turmoil of the Second World War. Ellie lives in a tiny hamlet set deep in the heart of the South Downs in Sussex, which has been her home for many years and where she raised her three children.
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