Her courage will save lives. But at what cost?
Her Secret War is a smart, immersive novel that turns a familiar WWII storyline on its heels. The story begins in Ireland 1941 where Sarah Gillespie loses her father and teenaged sister when Germany, or Jerry as the narrator refers to it, drops a bomb on neutral Dublin. Days afterwards, while Sarah is convalescing and unable to even attend their funeral, her boyfriend enlists in the war as well. Feeling more alone than ever and with little options, Sarah flees to England to connect with family but becomes even more embroiled in the war efforts, entering a dangerous spy game that could jeopardize her future in England and that of the family she has only recently found. Author Pam Lecky makes this a really engaging WWII-era story including some historical references that were new to me and made this feel like I was learning while having fun; the novel crosses over into the mystery genre as Sarah engages in war-time subterfuge, and there is even a little romance to keep it cozy. I enjoyed learning a bit about the political stance of Northern Ireland, Ireland, and England and how some Irish people were conflicted in who they would support in the war, even before the bombs fell. The author incorporates some of these perspectives in a way that feels seamless as the plot develops.
I found the characters to be quite sympathetic – I mourned for the loss of Maura alongside Sarah – the loss of a teenaged sister who never got to realize the potential that was evident even after just a few pages – and I felt Sarah’s conflicts in dealing with losing family members that she has ambiguous feelings about at the same time that the losses propels her into becoming more of an adult herself. While at times, I enjoyed the conversations between the characters and felt like the novel gave really complete pictures of the characters, there were other times when I wish the narrative sped past some of those moments that seemed to rehash Da’s abusiveness, the uncertainty of where next to expect the “Jerry” bombers and the duality of some of the characters. The microhistory did help to give a proper feel of the times though and I reveled in the descriptions of Sarah’s job in the tracing room of the Supermarine factory, and seeing how important the women’s work was for the wartime effort, given what the women the generation before was described as doing. All in all, Her Secret War evens out to be a really well-balanced read and I love the hint that there is more to come for Sarah Gillespie.
Thank you to Trish from TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins Books for providing me an Advanced Reader Copy in order to complete this review. I was not otherwise compensated and the views expressed in the preceding paragraphs represents my honest opinion about the book.
On 31st May 1941, Germany drops bombs on neutral Dublin and Sarah Gillespie loses her family and home that fateful night. Days later, the man she loves leaves Ireland to enlist in the RAF.
A decision that changes her life
With nothing to keep her in Ireland and a burning desire to help the war effort, Sarah seeks refuge with relatives in Hampshire, England. But before long, Sarah’s family history catches up with her.
A mission that could cost her life
Sarah is asked to prove her loyalty to Britain through uncovering a spy at Vickers Supermarine, the manufacturers of the legendary Spitfire fighter plane. But to progress with her mission, she must become involved with a fifth columnist. And so the most dangerous game she’s ever played ensues…
- Title: Her Secret War
- Author: Pam Lecky
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 384
- Publisher: Harper Collins
- Publication: January 4, 2022