The author of A Fall of Marigolds journeys from the present day to World War II England, as two sisters are separated by the chaos of wartime ...
She stood at a crossroads, half-aware that her choice would send her down a path from which there could be no turning back. But instead of two choices, she saw only one—because it was all she really wanted to see…
Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets about the war that she has kept for decades...beginning with who she really is. What Kendra receives from Isabel is both a gift and a burden--one that will test her convictions and her heart.
1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, hundreds of thousands of children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed…
- Historically accurate and introspective
Listened to this in less than 4 days it was such a compelling story. Having read non-fiction books such as The Hiding Place and The Diaries of Anne Frank. I found the perspective of children in England to be both interesting and accurate.
- Recommended for fans of historical fiction
Gripping account of two sisters of the one million children, 15 years and under, who were evacuated from London to rural foster homes at the expected WW2 advance of Germany. Emotional tension between mother and eldest daughter, Emmy, as the decision that is made serves as the platform to build the drama and trauma to come. I couldn't put it down.
Not one to miss for any WW fictional readers. Susan Meissner's historical research is par excellence.
The addition of narration sets the storytelling at a new and much appreciated level for me. I love to hear the character personalities come forward, the descriptions of location coloured, and the relationships dramatised. The addition of an accent is definitely a plus. And , as is the case in this novel, characters from different areas will add several accents. An accomplished narrator will handle these transitions well. I am unsure if this narration was able to convey those transitions as well as hoped for. Ms Kerr made admirable efforts in accent changes, though I found the unexpected pausing to be disruptive to the flow of storytelling. It came across to me as disjointing. I'm sorry it was so, though the narration did bring the story to life. And for this fabulous story, that is an added pleasure.
*Appreciation to Christian Audio for providing an audio copy to listen for review without cost or obligation.
- A very well written novel. It portrays real characters who must make choices that eff their lives for good or evil.
I have just read (listened to) the book; my first by the author. What a great read! Ms Meisseneer is a gifted writer who is able to put her characters' thoughts into words. Her story is based on good values that reflect wisdom for living. This book offered me insight for my own journey.
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- Absolutely loved it!
I so loved this book!! I want to read everything she’s written. Loved the Shape of Mercy too! So we’ll done and I learned some history too in a rich and real way
- So good.
Such a good book.
- Loved every part
This was a wonderful and thought provoking book. The author did a wonderful job with the character development and kept me many times on pins and needles.
- Thought provoking story.
I just finished this book and I am crying. I think I'm in a similar space to Isabel/Emmie. Loss of my husband and family. Fear. Confusion. Deep sadness. Regret. The story has helped me see beyond the lonely space I now occupy. I'm very glad I've "read" it. Well done. Thank you to the author.
- Exceptionally dissappointingly read
I found this profoundly disappointing.
The story is pretty good - but you absolutely chose the wrong reader. How can you have an American reader reading a British story in an accent that it is really all over the place when she tries to be British.
British people are tremendously sensitive to accents. The girls in this story came from the East End they would have had at least a London or even a cockney accent. The upper class people would have had upper -class accents and so on - so as an audio book it just didn't work.
As you will see from Amazon UK (rather than Amazon.com) the book itself is flawed because it uses many many American expressions that Brits would never use -like candy and sidewalk, and I guess... So the reader was starting on the wrong foot- but even so - with all the action happening in the UK and the story being told by a 90 year old British woman, a British narrator would have been the right choice.
- My first Susan Messiner book but not my last!
I truly enjoyed this book! It was the first of Susan Messiner's novels I have read/listened to but it won't be the last! She has a way of drawing you into historical events that make you feel like you were there.
- Epic British War Story
Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner is a brilliant work of fiction that was highly entertaining and seemed very realistic. The majority of the book is set during World War II and in particular the Battle of Britain where the air raids by the Nazis were unrelenting.
The main story is about a fifteen-year-old girl, her younger sister and her mother trying to survive the oppressive war time conditions while getting on with their lives. It covers their time in London before the war, the girls being sent away to countryside to keep them safe and then her journey back to follow her dreams.
I absolutely loved this novel, it has everything including history, action, family relationships and even a bit of romance. It is a fascinating look into one of the most critical battles of World War II as well as a glimpse into what life must have been like during those times. It is a thrilling experience to follow the journey of this young lady with plenty of highs and lows as well as a couple of surprises.
The narration was really good as I felt like she expressed the story with emotion and heart that was intended by the author. It flows nicely and listening was enjoyable.
This book is a really good novel and should be read by anyone interested in historical fiction or just lovers of good stories.
This audio book was gifted as a part of the christianaudio Reviewers Program in exchange for my unbiased review of this work. More information can be found about this and other Christian audio books at christianaudio.com.
I've loved listening to this wonderful audiobook by Susan Meissner. World War Two is a period of history that I'm interested in and so this added to my enjoyment of the story of the two evacuated sisters. I love the two main characters and felt for Emmy the oldest sister with her dreams and responsibilities.
There were a lot of twists and turns to this story that kept it going at a good pace and kept my interest throughout, wondering what happened to the sisters.
Alana Kerr is a perfect narrator for this book and does very well with the different age ranges and accents. I would definitely prefer to listen to the audio rather than read the print version as it enabled me to feel all the emotions as I heard the narrator bring them to life.
This is the third audiobook that I've listened to and thoroughly enjoyed by this author and I'll definitely be looking out for by her.
Thanks to christianaudio.com Reviewer's Program for this copy.
- Best book of 2015!
I turn my head in the direction of one of the more prominent paintings in the room: a young girl in a pink dress is walking through a field of glistening-wet daisies and is holding the trademark red-and-white polka-dot umbrella. ~Secrets of a Charmed Life
Secrets of a Charmed Life, by Susan Meissner, is one of my favorite books I’ve read so far this year. As a fan of dual-time period stories, I had no doubt I’d enjoy this story, but I was surprised at how much!
This is the first story I’ve read by Susan Meissner, but certainly won’t be my last. I’ve already downloaded her audiobook, A Fall of Marigolds, with hope that it’s as good as this read/listen was.
The story, centering on a displaced young woman and her sister during the London blitz of WWII, captures the heartbreaks, horrors, and fears born from war, and encapsulates the reader into that time period. Upon completion, I feel I’ve walked the war-torn streets of London, breathed the smoky, powdery ruins, and felt the internal wounds of families torn apart.
Secrets of a Charmed Life pulled me through a horde of emotions and I’ve grown from the experience.
Audio Narration: Alana Kerr does a superb job of narrating this fine piece. Her inflection is pleasant, and she never loses my interest. I can only hope to find more audiobooks narrated by her, for her lovely accent(s) and gentle voice is inviting.
Audio Production Quality: The production quality of this audio book is clear, with no distracting background music, static, or skips.
Overall opinion: This is my favorite book of 2015, so far. The story is compelling, the narration is superb, and the writing is filled with rich history, deep meaning, and emotion.
“What good is remembering an event if you don’t remember how it made you feel? How it impacted others. How it made them feel. You would learn nothing and neither would anyone else.” ~Secrets of a Charmed Life
I’ll not soon forget this story. How it impacted me. How it made me feel. I’ve learned so much.
Audio Length: 11:26
Pages (printed length): 416
First Lines: The English cottage, bramble hedged and golden stoned, looks as timeless as a fairy tale except for the bobbing Mylar balloons tied to the front gate.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a Review Copy from christianaudio. I was not required to write a positive review. The options I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
- The book possesses solid writing laced with historical intrigue.
After I finished listening to A Fall of Marigolds, I sought out another title by Susan Meissner. I quickly selected her latest release Secrets of a Charmed Life, because I only recently learned about the evacuation of children from London during WWII. A discovery that I, as a mother, perceived to be both heartbreaking and necessary - a sacrifice of love. In trademark style, Meissner has created a beautiful union between the present and the past.
As the oldest of 5 siblings myself, the connection between reader and antagonist Emmy Downtree was instantaneous. Emmy's mother was always placing the responsibility for the care of her younger daughter squarely on Emmy's shoulders. Needless to say Emmy, having already celebrated her 15th birthday as the story begins, was ready to be free of this responsibility and anxious to pursue a future in dress making. Unfortunately, the German Luftwaffe began their air raids on London as Emmy took her first steps towards her dream. With resentment in her heart, Emmy again assumes responsibility for her sister as both girls are forced to evacuate to the British countryside. Meissner's writing dramatically portrays the mother/teenage daughter drama that unfolds. While I empathized with Emmy from the beginning, my heart began to soften towards her mother as events unfolded and more of her past was revealed.
In this novel, Meissner has created a more profound connection between present day and historical events by connecting the two through a series of prolonged flashbacks. In the present day focuses on Kendra Van Zant, a young history major studying at Oxford. She conducts interviews with Isabel MacFarland about her experiences during the London Blitz. Through Isabel's eyes the complete picture of Emmy and Julia's lives is revealed to the reader. This captivating tale held a somber tone due to the ravages of war as well as the grief and regret that Emmy carries for much of the story.
The tone of the book was conveyed well by the voice of the narrator. Alana Kerr's voice has a soft and melodious quality. This held my attention, but I do not feel like she capitalized on the opportunities the author offered to get really animated about the events which were unfolding. That aside, her pace and voice projection complemented the general mood of the story well.
In conclusion, I am certain that Meissner fans and historical fiction enthusiasts will enjoy Secrets of a Charmed Life. The book possesses solid writing laced with historical intrigue. For readers looking for a novel with substance, Meissner touches on God's divine providence as well as his ability to work in and through all situations - even war and tragedy. Additionally, her characters struggle with fear, hatred, resentment, and broken dreams on the road to restoration. I give Secrets of a Charmed Life 4/5 stars.
I received this book for free as a member of the christianaudio reviewers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
- A book that certainly charms the reader.
Secrets of a Charmed Life
I read ninety-nine percent non-fiction. I am not a reader by nature, I prefer visual, sensory methods of absorbing the world around me. This is the reason that I appreciate sites like Christianaudio.com and Audible as sources of literature.
I chose to try a fiction book this time to make my daily two mile walk with my dogs go faster. The book that I chose was Secrets of a Charmed Life. I had not read the synopsis of the book and thought that it might be a self-help book on what it is like to walk with God. Wrong!
I quickly discovered that this is a book with a heavy dose of history, which I love, mixed in with a fictional story about two girls who suffered through World War II and the turmoil that typified the lives of England’s children during this devastating period. This historical context provided my desire for factual history a reason to continue listening.
This was one of those books that are hard to put down, in this case, to turn off the audio book player. I found myself day after day, returning home after 45 minutes of listening while walking to sitting down and continuing to listen. The necessity of starting my daily activities prevented me from listening to the book straight through but I surely would have, had I not been forced to stop.
The author is a master at weaving multiple story lines including one from the present, one from history and several of minor characters into a riveting novel which I highly recommend.
The most significant takeaway for me was a fact that we have heard many times before but is relevant to this book as well, namely, if we don't look at the mistakes of history, we are doomed to repeat them.
The narrator did a wonderful job of keeping the listener engaged.
I was given a free audio version of this book for my agreement to review it but this has not influenced my personal impressions of the book.
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