‘A rich and gripping tale of love, deception and desire.’
The Faithful is the second novel from author Juliet West. Spanning the beaches of Sussex to the battlefields of civil war Spain, The Faithful is a beautiful book full of passion and despair.
Published by Mantle Books (an imprint of Pan Macmillan) on 15th June 2017, I was only too delighted to receive an advance copy to review. Based on the cover alone, I knew that this was a book I was going to get lost in.
Please read on for my voluntary and unbiased review….
Book Synopsis: (Courtesy of Pan Macmillan)
As Britain is pulled towards war, the secrets within two families threaten to tear them apart, in the new novel from Juliet West, The Faithful . . .
July 1935. In the village of Aldwick on the Sussex coast, sixteen-year-old Hazel faces a long, dull summer with just her self-centred mother Francine for company. But then Francine decamps to London with her lover Charles, Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts arrive in Aldwick, and Hazel’s summer suddenly becomes more interesting. She finds herself befriended by two very different people: Lucia, an upper-class blackshirt, passionate about the cause; and Tom, a young working-class boy, increasingly scornful of Mosley’s rhetoric. In the end, though, it is Tom who wins Hazel’s heart – and Hazel who breaks his.
Autumn 1936. Now living in London, Hazel has grown up fast over the past year. But an encounter with Tom sends her into freefall. He must never know why she cut off all contact last summer, betraying the promises they’d made. Yet Hazel isn’t the only one with secrets. Nor is she the only one with reason to keep the two of them apart . . .
I love historical fiction, suffice to say, it is probably my favourite genre of all time, especially the years up the 1950’s. There is something about the people, the history, the fashion that just draws me in.
The title of the book is printed in art deco style, with the side-profile image of a young girl dressed in the summer fashion of the time. The sun is framing her face with the light almost blindingly capturing her form.
The year is 1935. The location is Sussex. The story is fiction but based around true events. Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts descended on the village of Aldwick in their score, bringing ordinary working folk from all over. For the local people of the village it was a sight to behold and for a young impressionable sixteen-year-old it was about to change the direction of her life forever.
The product of a broken marriage, Hazel is a little lost. With her father, Paul, now working in Paris and her very glamorous mother, Francine, flitting about the place and spending most of her time back & forth to London, Hazel soon finds herself caught up in the buzz of the marching bands. With her interest piqued, she attends one of the Blackshirt rallies. It is here she meets Lucia, a very upper-class and incredibly beautiful young girl. Lucia is a dedicated follower of Oswald Mosley. Her enthusiasm is infectious and Hazel is only too delighted to get sucked in to the hype and company of people her own age..
Hazel is somewhat in awe of Lucia with her confident personality and general joie de vivre and is soon swept along in the excitement of the new arrivals in town. Hazel, without a political idea in her head, sees no harm in her involvement with the Blackshirts and is quite happy to pass away her time in their gatherings.
While there she meets Tom. Tom is at the camp with his parents, but he is becoming more cynical of Mosley’s views. Hazel finds herself caught up between Tom’s working-class views and Lucia’s upper-class ones, as she tries to establish her own opinions.
With Hitler’s march across Europe on the horizon and Franco’s increasing and devastating control over Spain, all of their lives are in a constant state of flux.
As the camp moves off, Hazel is left with the memories of the times she spent with both Tom and Lucia, but with a black cloud descending on her, life will never be the same for Hazel.
As the years pass, Hazel finds herself in London a fully paid up member of the Blackshirts. Oswald Mosley’s views become dangerous and talk of Hitler’s bombs landing across the channel is on everybody’s lips. War is looming and people are afraid.
Juliet West has written a beautiful story. With the horror of war as the backdrop and the impending sounds of the marching bands and the drone of the planes overhead, the images of the fear and panic are discernible off the pages.
Hazel’s story is heart breaking, a young life torn apart by despair, hurt and pain. Hazel is a very strong character but the cross she has to bear is a heavy one. As Tom heads off to fight under the burning heat and the harsh winters endured during the Spanish civil war, Hazel has her own war to fight at home. As a reader we get to witness the impact of lives destroyed and futures lost, we feel their grief and get an understanding of their hurt.
The Faithful is divided up into sections over a number of years, each dealing with a certain time in the lives of the main characters. As their personal circumstances change, it’s like looking through a window. I mentioned on twitter that I wanted more in this book and I think this is what I meant. I would have loved to know more about how certain events occurred as opposed to reading about it after the fact. Now DO NOT get me wrong….this is only because I wanted to invest even more of my time in these fabulous characters, as it is such a fascinating time in our history.
Juliet West…I think I’m hinting at another book!!!!!!!!!!
The Faithful is a poignant, heart-wrenching story that will leave you bereft when you finish it. There is such a strong sense of time and place on every page, it’s like leaving your friends behind….
A sure-fire Summer bestseller…
Purchase Link ~ The Faithful
Juliet West worked as a journalist before taking an MA in Creative Writing at Chichester University, where she won the Kate Betts’ Memorial Prize.
‘Before The Fall’, her debut novel, was shortlisted for the Myriad Editions novel writing competition in 2012. Juliet also writes short stories and poetry, and won the H E Bates short story prize in 2009.
She lives in West Sussex with her husband and three children.
Website ~ http://www.julietwest.com/
Twitter ~ @JulietWest14