Celia’s War review: A rollercoaster of a debut novel | Books | Entertainment

And tricky also to describe the story without revealing too much about her shocking back-story. Because Celia Creswell is a woman with a past and then some, someone whose history is veiled by necessary secrecy, someone scarred by events no one should have to endure at the tender age she did.

Almost all of the adults in this novel are haunted by the war fought and won a mere 18 years earlier than when the story begins. Also haunted is 18-year-old Gabriel Mallory, star athlete at the boarding school at which Celia works as Matron.

In the opening scenes, he’s running over frozen fields belonging to a farmer whose land neighbours the school. When he sees a man he is convinced is his father.

Except that his father died before Gabriel’s birth, perished in the cockpit of a Spitfire, burnt-
out at the conclusion of a long period of conflict.

Celia treats Gabriel. And she teases information out of him, something her own clandestine training has taught her to do. And so she knows that whatever else is going on, the young man in front of her is neither lying nor embellishing.

This is someone only ever encouraged – particularly by his loving Whitehall mandarin uncle and guardian – to tell the unvarnished truth.

And so the bond between Celia and Gabriel deepens. And deepens…

The Beatles have just released their first LP. JFK is in the White House.

The period detail in this novel is pitch-perfect And the Second World War flashbacks are brilliant action set pieces.

Altogether a quite stunning debut.

You can buy the book here.

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