mr. churchill’s secretary

Mr. Churchill's Secretary: A NovelI’ve always been a fan of historical fiction, and I certainly have a soft spot for anything set in England, so it’s no surprise that Susan Elia MacNeal’s Mr. Churchill’s Secretary caught my attention.  Set in 1940, the novel tells the story of Maggie Hope.  Maggie, a British citizen raised in the United States after losing her parents in a tragic accident, is a brilliant young woman.  Although securing a place at MIT as a graduate student after graduating from Wellesley, the death of her grandmother forces Maggie to change her plans.  She returns to London with plans to quickly settle her grandmother’s estate and sell the family home, but instead finds herself setting into London, with a handful of roommates and a secretarial job in the prime minister’s office in the midst of World War II.  But Maggie soon learns that not all of the secrets in the office have to do with the war; some are much closer to home.

MacNeal’s London is a vibrant, buzzing, and somewhat frightening place.  She captures the wartime atmosphere convincingly, with blackouts and bombings and air raid shelters.  And Maggie herself is a compelling protagonist, intelligent and forthright, but with frustrations and anxieties that are easy to understand and feel alongside her.  The supporting characters are hit and miss; some are underdeveloped, and others feel superfluous altogether, but generally, they provide us with a context from which to better understand Maggie, both in the ways she is alike and different from them.

But the real star of the novel is the plot.  The writing is heavy-handed at times; MacNeal was a little too liberal with the foreshadowing and suspense at key points, which bogs down the narrative.  However, the storyline itself has an engaging energy that makes the novel difficult to put down.  Even the historical perspective takes unexpected turns at times, not depending entirely on the Nazis for conflict and turmoil.  All in all, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary is a quick, compelling read – a great contender for a historical fiction fan looking for the right vacation novel.

*This book was provided to me for review at no cost by the publisher.


~ by Molly on May 11, 2012.

One Response to “mr. churchill’s secretary”

  1. […] finished – Sadly, not much!  The last book I finished was the recently reviewed Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, but that was well over a month […]

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