This is a gorgeous work of historical fiction that is a new addition to my “Must Read” list. Isabel is a woman hell-bent on reinventing herself as a decoder for the war effort for Britain during the second World War. Across the ocean, Sydney begins as a headstrong suffragette, much to the chagrin of her sister, Brooke, who just needs Sydney to tone it down so as not to scare away Brooke’s fiancee Edward. They are all entwined by the voyage of the Lusitania, which is to carry Brooke, Sydney and Edward to England where Brooke and Edward are to marry. Will the Lusitania make it through war zone waters safely?
This is a beautifully orchestrated novel, with suspenseful subplots and many amusing and colorful characters that draw the reader in and keep the pages turning. Both Isabel and Sydney are strong protagonists, each with complicated pasts but each also very forward-thinking. The reader cannot help loving both of them for their idealism and their honesty. I imagine some of the scenes as being beautiful, by the descriptions of the elegant rooms on the ship, the gowns that the sisters wear, the view from the ship – I can easily picture a filming of this book.
But the real beauty lies in the suspense that builds throughout the story, both in the various sub-plots as well as in the overall big story. There is a battle between the sisters that must be overcome. There is someone who might jeopardize all that Isabel has worked so hard to achieve. And will the Lusitania actually defy the Germans and cross to Liverpool safely? This is a page-turner that will bring tears to your eyes, that you will read late into the night, and that will stay with you after putting it down.