Anna's Return (by Sally Quilford)

I have been reading novellas by Sally Quilford for some years now, since coming across her blog, and becoming friends on Facebook. She often offers some of her books free for the Kindle, and I usually take the opportunity to download them. I have quite a few still unread, as I don’t usually read much on my Kindle other than when travelling, so I decided to try another of them after finishing something else on a recent flight from the UK.

‘Anna’s Return’ is set in the war years, and begins with a train journey. 18-year-old Janek, a Polish refugee, has managed to reach the UK and hopes to join the army. He meets 10-year-old Anna, who has escaped from Germany after losing her Russian mother, and hopes to find her father, a peer who is married to someone else. She has no idea whether he will accept her, or even acknowledge her, but he is her only hope.

Perhaps predictably, there are problems on the train, and Anna’s welcome is not as warm as she might have hoped, although the housekeeper, Mrs Palmer, is very friendly. Janek promises to stay in touch, but doesn’t do so, and the years pass with Anna playing something of a Cinderella role in her father’s household. By the third chapter she has turned eighteen, and the war is a distant memory.

It’s impossible to say much more without giving spoilers, but it’s a fast-paced and very readable book which I enjoyed very much. Anna is a believable person, confident and loyal, even though life has not treated her well. She has to start making her own way in the world, due to yet more unfortunate circumstances, and works her way up from the bottom, though she becomes wary of people mistrusting her, and - perhaps naively - doesn’t speak out about what’s happened in the past.

Most of the book is then a gentle romance, with inevitable confusion, misunderstandings and hurts. It’s nicely done, with some unexpected twists and turns, and I found Anna a very likeable young woman. At times I wanted to give her a nudge and tell her to speak out; frustration with the way someone in a book behaves is a mark of great characterisation, and it’s here that Sally Quilford excels, in my opinions. Her people, even some of the minor characters, are three-dimensional, and I cared what happened to them.

I didn’t manage to finish the book on my flight despite it being a pocket novel rather than a full-length one, but I was so eager to find out what happened that I continued to read every spare moment I had after my return, despite being tired and jet-lagged, and having little time to myself as we had visiting family members.

Definitely recommended for those who like post war-years romantic fiction.

Review copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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