SECOND OPINION: The Faithful by Juliet West

Review published on August 20, 2017.

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. However, when Francine decamps to London with her lover Charles and Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts arrive in Aldwick, Hazel’s summer suddenly becomes much 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. As Hazel is drawn into their worlds, she believes she has found love until one night her life takes a devastating turn.

Autumn 1936, now living in London: Hazel has grown up fast over the past year. However, an encounter with Tom sends her into free fall. He must never know why she cut off all contact with him last summer, betraying the promises they’d made. Yet Hazel isn’t the only one with secrets. Hazel’s story is heartbreaking, a young life torn apart by despair and pain. Hazel is a strong character with a heavy burden to bear. 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.

The book is divided into sections over a number of years dealing with a certain time in the lives of the main characters. It is like looking through a time window. This is a poignant, heart wrenching story that is basically a love story. However, I also found two of the other characters interesting. Bea and Francine are mothers to Tom and Hazel, respectively. They have very different backgrounds but are facing similar challenges. From the beaches of Sussex to the battlefields of civil war Spain, The Faithful is a gripping tale of love, deception and desire.

Dorothy Flaxman 4/4

The Faithful by Juliet West
Mantle 9781447259091 hbk Jun 2017

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