I love a good war-time story and they don’t come much better than this from the ‘Queen of historical fiction.’ Letters from the Lighthouse is a thriller of a story full of mystery and intrigue set on the Devon coast.
It was supposed to be a somewhat normal night out for Olive, her younger brother Cliff and her older sister Sukie. But before the film had even started the air-raid siren was sounding and the bombs were falling. In the chaos and confusion, the three become separated and the last Olive sees of Sukie is what looks like a suspicious meeting with a man and the exchanging of messages in the middle of an air-raid.
With London increasingly in danger, Olive and Cliff find themselves sent off to the Devon countryside to stay with the sister of their mother’s friend. Gloria is far from welcoming though, she is unfriendly, brash and rude and spends an unusual amount of time in her cellar. When Olive finds a coded message hidden in the lining of her mother’s jacket which was last worn by Sukie, Olive senses something. Olive knows from the letters at home that Sukie has been in contact with someone in Devon and more and more things seem to point to a secret mission. Desperate to find out what has happened to Sukie, Olive sets out to uncover the truth.
Emma Carroll perfectly writes about the effects of a war on a small community on the English coast. The community are not exactly welcoming to the strange evacuees that have deposited on their doorsteps and neither are the local children at school. Eventually suspicions turn to trust and true to the wartime effort, everyone helps each other out and the strangers come together. The sense of community and pulling together really comes across when some more ‘guests’ arrive in the latter part of the story.
Carroll writes about the families that are destroyed by war and highlights the individual struggles that both children and adults face. Relationships and friendships are strained as people try to protect each other, but in doing so they hide the truth and live a lie and it is these lies that will put the people they love in danger.
Actions and secrets are justified with the phrase, “There’s a war on remember.” This becomes an excuse for anything and everything and I liked that many of the characters in the story rise above this and put basic human rights and good morals above justifying actions because of war. There are good people standing up to evil and rising above hate throughout this read.
A thoroughly engrossing war-time read.
Recommended for 9+.