Wrapped in the roots of the sycamore was a skeleton; the remains of a woman, between twenty-five and thirty. She had carried a child . . .’
At the close of the Second World War, Intelligence Officer Gus Clifton returns to London. On his arm is Krista, the German wife he married secretly in Berlin. For his sisters, this broken woman is nothing more than the enemy. For Nella, Gus’s loyal fiancée, it is a terrible betrayal. These three friends wonder what hold Krista has over decent, honourable Gus. And, they ask themselves, how far will they have to go to permanently get her out of their home, their future, their England?
What does TWG think?
Seeing as ‘historical fiction’ is one of my all-time favourite genres, I was super excited to have the opportunity to read ‘The New Mrs Clifton’ by Elizabeth Buchan. Despite having not read any of Elizabeth Buchan’s previous novels, I still was rather eager to get stuck into a book which has been all over social media in recent weeks. What was all the fuss? Why was everyone talking about #TheNewMrsClifton?
I need to be brutally honest; at first I couldn’t work out what all the fuss was about. The storyline didn’t grab me straight away, nor did it ignite any fire in my belly. Usually when that happens with any other book, I make the decision to stop reading and pick up my next book. However with #TheNewMrsClifton, my gut instinct was telling me not to stop reading, to carry on and give the book chance. So I listened.
Set during the aftermath of World War II when emotions are rife, lives have changed and the people of London (and all over the world) are dealing with the catastrophic circumstances surrounding the war. Gus Clifton returned to London with a new wife on his arm, despite having a fiancée at home. As far as his family are concerned, Gus has committed the ultimate betrayal. As far as Gus and his new wife are concerned, Gus has only done what he had to do. But, did he really have to do it?
As I’ve already mentioned above, my first impressions of Elizabeth Buchan’s novel weren’t ideal and, because of that, I knew that I needed to read the rest of the novel with an open mind, and a lot of patience.
Did it pay off? Yes, it did.
The further into the book I read, the more invested in Gus Clifton’s life and the repercussions of his actions, especially as the three main women of the story (Krista, Julia and Tilly) emotions were severely realistic and often emotional. I was intrigued by the devastation that the Second World War had left and how people managed to pick up the pieces of their now broken life. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly wasn’t as easy as picking up and brush and sweeping up the dust and grime. No. People had lost family members and were grieving for those they knew had died in the war. People were also grieving for loved ones who were deemed MIA, uncertain as to whether their paths would cross again. Can you imagine living through that? Living through the cultural divides, the strict opinions of other country’s leaders.
For me, the realistic portrayal of London post-war was heart-breaking yet beautifully written. Even though the author was well aware that the topic would be extremely emotional and devastating to write about, she still wrote about it without fluffing it up and making it look a lot better than it was. The author wrote in characters who made it clear where bombs hit London as though it was the same as talking about the postman these days. It’s writing styles like that which, in my opinion, make historical fiction authors worth their weight in gold.
Even though I did end up thoroughly enjoying #TheNewMrsClifton, there were certain parts which didn’t really do it for me in terms of the storyline and certain viewpoints. However, Elizabeth Buchan has told the story of World War II in such a way, my whole body was covered in goosebumps. As far as I am concerned, the parts of the novel which didn’t work for me personally, aren’t worth thinking about if the author can make me come out in goosebumps and fill my eyes with tears, based on her historical story telling alone. Personally, the more historically aimed parts of the book were my absolute favourite and she wrote them in a way which will forever be imprinted in my mind.
Heart-breaking, eye-opening, and historically divulging, #TheNewMrsClifton really is worth taking the time to read, digest, enjoy and remember. Just like the victims of Second World War.
Thanks Elizabeth Buchan.