Review published on October 7, 2017.
Erica James can be relied on to provide a good story. With her more recent books in particular I’ve felt that there was a lot more to them than just an enjoyable escapist read and that they explored issues around relationships and families. I’ve particularly enjoyed the ones partly set in WW2, so I was pleased to find that this one starts in 1939 and covers the first couple of years of the war.
Romily is a confident, adventure loving, successful author in her early 30s. After a whirlwind romance she had married an older man, Jack, and come to live at his home, the Island House of the title. When Jack has a stroke his estranged family are called home and Romily comes to realise it is her role to try to rebuild relationships. Jack’s first wife had died and he had neglected his children and niece, affecting their characters. During the novel we get to know Arthur, a bad-tempered bully, immature Kit who is keen to join the RAF, recently widowed Hope and unhappy Allegra. Add to this the strain of the outbreak of war and the addition to the household of evacuee, Stanley, and a Jewish baby and you have an engrossing and addictive (extended) family saga.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and thought it captured well the atmosphere of the time but did perhaps feel that the author tries to cover too many issues and dilemmas. Because there are so many troubled characters some of the minor ones come across as one dimensional and almost caricatures. There is also not one main character that you really identify with, though maybe this is Erica James’s point – the household at Island House though not all linked by family ties must work together and support each other especially during the horrors of war. There are so many issues here to discuss that this would be an excellent choice for book groups as well as being a satisfying and enjoyable personal read.
Berwyn Peet 4/4
Coming Home to Island House by Erica James
Orion 9781409159599 hbk Jan 2018