Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Skylark's Secret

  The Skylark's Secret
Author:  Fiona Valpy
Publication Information:  Lake Union Publishing. 2020. 319 pages.
ISBN:  1542005159 / 978-1542005159

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "It's one of those days, on the cusp of early summer, when the sky and the sea alike are awash with sunlight."

Favorite Quote:  "Even though it's so painful, grief is something we have to go through sooner or later. There's no way round it, no way to avoid it. That something we all learned in the war. You go through it. But if you have a friend or two to walk along that path beside you, it helps you to bear it."

Loch Ewe is located in the northwest Scottish highlands. It is a region of small villages, the most well known of which is Aultbea. Due to its location and terrain, Loch Ewe was a long a gathering point for maritime trade. The same characteristics led to its becoming a temporary naval base during World War II. Primarily, it was used as a gathering and departure point for the Arctic Convoys. These convoys of the British, Canadian, and United States navies were a supply line for the northern Soviet destinations and the Allies fighting there. Remains of the military buildings and barracks can still be seen in and around Aultbea.

This is the location and history behind The Skylark's Secret. The book is a story of two women - mother and daughter. Flora Gordon lived in Aultbea during World War II; her story covers 1939 to about 1944. We also see Flora as a mother through Lexie's eyes years later. Lexie Gordon is a young woman who left Aultbea for the sights an sounds of London and a career and a musician. An illness and the end of that career unwillingly brings Lexie back to Aultbea with her own young daughter.

Flora's story is that of war and of love and friendship found even in trying times. It is also the story of the economic divisions of the town and the social gaps that some think can never be bridged. Lexie story is that of finding your way home again and discovering that home is a good place to be. Lexie's story is also about trying the resolve the unanswered questions about her birth. The story of the village is that of any small town. Everyone knows everyone's business, and the town takes care of its own.

The "secret" of the the book is not such a big secret. The conflict of Flora's love story is not surprising or unique. The secret is about sacrifices made in the name of love and about an entire town that comes together to protect one individual. For Lexie, the secret is about coming to terms with her mother's past and about understanding her own past.

As is the case in books with parallel stories, one usually takes precedence. In this case, it is definitely Flora's story that is the stronger in terms of plot and events and also in terms of emotions. Although the secret pertains to Lexie, it is really part of Flora's story. Lexie's own story is much simpler and entirely predictable. It seems there to provide context for Flora's story.

The history associated with Flora's story also gives it depth. The Scottish role in the World War II is not one I have read about often, and it provides yet another facet to that complicated history. I do wish the book has a bit more of that history, but that is clearly not the purpose of the book.

In summary, the book is quickly and easily read. The story is not all that unique, but the history is one I am glad I learned.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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