Monday, 25 August 2014

I Can't Begin to Tell You by Elizabeth Buchan

I really wasn't sure what to expect when I received a copy of this book to review. I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but with barely a glance at the press release, I already had my judgements formed. A romance set in world war two, I thought. Or a family saga set on against the tides of the wartime era. It is a bit of both I suppose but so much more. 

It is 1940 and in Denmark, war has arrived and people are choosing their sides. Local landowner and Danish born Bror Eberstern opts for an easier existence by co-existing with the Germans that have pervaded the town. 

His British born wife Kay however finds his decision to be almost cowardly and cannot agree with him. After one favour for a close acquaintance, she finds herself sucked into a world of subterfuge and misdirection. 

She teams up with an undercover operative trained by British Intelligence to transmit messages and transport forbidden items as part of a growing resistance against Hitler and his men. The deeper she gets, the more risks she takes and she finds that the dangers not only threaten her, but her whole family and the peaceful lives they once had.

As well as the action in Denmark, we are also privy to the lives of women who were tasked with receiving the coded messages and the clever minds that unscrambled the information. I loved how the story flitted from Denmark to London, with every character playing their risky role in the war effort. I found the coding and intelligence processes incredibly fascinating, and teamed with the personal lives of the workers, I couldn't put the book down. 

When I learnt about World War Two at school, or when reading fiction set in this time, I've never really heard much about what happened in Denmark, so I really enjoyed being able to learn more about the part that the Danish people played in this incredible slice of history. 

The characters are so well portrayed and you genuinely care what happens to them. The ordeals they face are written like a tense movie script; you can visualise each scene as if it were written for TV and you are almost on the edge of your seat when danger arises. 

I found I Can’t Begin to Tell You incredibly engrossing; full of secrets, twists and turns as well as love and family and the bonds forged and broken by war. A truly gripping read; heartfelt and intelligent, steeped in history and skilfully worded.   

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