21/03/2016

Song of the Skylark (by Erica James)

I’ve enjoyed books by Erica James for many years now, and am always pleased when a new one is published, although I usually add it to my wishlist after the paperback edition is released. So I was delighted to find her most recent novel available for review from the Bookbag site, and have just finished reading the hardback edition, published this month.

‘Song of the Skylark’ has quite a cast of characters, and I found it a little difficult, at first, to keep track of everyone. Lizzie is the main protagonist; we meet her trying in vain to apply for new jobs after losing her previous one. We quickly learn that she was sacked for rather blatant immoral behaviour with her boss, a married man.

Lizzie had to give up her flat when she became unemployed, and is temporarily staying with her parents. Her mother persuades her to volunteer at a local care home for the elderly until she can find a job, and Lizzie reluctantly agrees. There she meets Mrs Dallimore, a delightful lady in her mid-nineties, who starts telling Lizzie about her life as a young woman.

From this point the novel has two timeframes: that of the present day, and that of Mrs Dallimore - Clarissa - in her twenties. The latter starts in 1939 when, as a young woman, she travels alone from the United States to the UK in the hope of getting to know her late mother’s estranged family.

The characterisation is good, as with all Erica James’ books. Inevitably the shadow of World War II impinges on Clarissa’s life, and I thought it gave a good picture of what it might have been like to live through this era.

I found Lizzie rather annoying in the first half of the book. She has made some foolish mistakes, and seems to expect a career to fall into her lap. But gradually I began to like her better. It’s quite a skill to create a heroine who starts out by seeming to have almost no redeeming features.

The writing is just the right pace for my tastes, and I found it quite difficult to put down at times. Definitely recommended to anyone who enjoys thoughtful women’s fiction where past and present time-frames alternate. Available for the Kindle as well as in hardback.

You can also read my slightly longer review of 'Song of the Skylark' at the Bookbag site. 

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's Book Reviews

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