Goodnight from London

I love reading about plucky women reporters and war correspondents. Mostly because I wanted to be one. I ended up being a reporter, mostly without the pluck. You need surprisingly little pluck when your circulation is less than 2,000.

Anyway. Goodnight from London, by Jennifer Robson, was the exact remedy I needed at this point as I drown in super heavy novels. Despite its setting—London, during the Blitz, and through the Second World War—the novel doesn’t drown in tension. Which, I appreciate, because I’m also reading three thrillers at the moment and those are not my jam. I’m tense enough, thanks.

The story follows Ruby Sutton, an American journalist, who is seconded to a British publication, because she has no family and no dependents. Fair, I guess. Ruby has secrets, and she’s glad to leave them behind in New York.

In London, she discovers she has a knack for finding great angles and her editor gives her what she needs to pursue stories. I’m super envious of Ruby and her supportive male editors. She’s two for two. That’s pretty out of line with any sort of reality I’ve experienced, but her male co-workers are dogs, so there’s that.

Robson doesn’t tackle anything too contentious. Things are straightforward. Nazis—bad. Gutsy Londoners—good. Male bosses—good. Male colleagues—questionable. Internment camps—bad. Assassins working for the secret service—good. Americans—bad for not joining the war. Americans—good for joining the war. I’m grateful for the lack of ambiguity. My brain needed a break.

Ruby doesn’t make it through the Blitz unscathed. She loses everything: clothes, passports, the only photo she has of her mother.

“Life settled into a wearing routine that was marked by four or five siren warnings over the course of the morning and afternoon, only one of which ever seemed to turn into an actual raid, and then the exercise in endurance of the nightly raids, which might easily last seven or eight hours. Day after day, week after week, until Ruby felt as flat and fragile as a scrap of tissue paper,” Robson writes.

In losing everything, Ruby gains friends and a family, falls in love and rises above her own expectations. The man she falls in love with has some secrets of his own. I’m a little vague on how exactly Ruby puts the pieces of his secret together, but perhaps it is her overall pluckish-ness.

The love story seems a little rushed. I think I’ve been tainted because I’m part way through Mandy Len Catron’s How to Fall in Love with Anyone, which at the moment is taking a cynical approach to love stories in general. More on that in a later post.

Jennifer Robson was at Events 57 (Top of the List) and 63 (The Pull of History) at the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.


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