Sunday 27 August 2023

The Girl Who Never Came Back by Suzanne Goldring #BooksOnTour @SuzanneGoldring @bookouture #TheGirlWhoNeverCameBack #WWIIFiction #BookReview


Someone is trying to hide what really happened to her. I must do anything to discover the truth. Even risk my own life….

Paris 1945. I sent nineteen-year-old Phyllis, my youngest recruit, into a city crawling with enemy soldiers. But she was smart as a tack, and her gold-flecked hazel eyes could capture anyone’s hearts. I was certain she would succeed. But then she disappeared without a trace. And no one will help me discover what happened to her.

I am desperate to find her – the girl I told to lie to her family about where she was going. She was excited to be doing her bit, but she was young and naïve. It was my job to make her understand the peril she would face. Is it my fault she is missing?

Now I creep into a beautiful house on a tree-lined street, the headquarters of cold-hearted German soldiers. It was the last place she was seen. I trail my fingers along the gilded furniture and see the light dance off the glittering chandeliers. On the top floor, I find the dates inscribed by beaten prisoners, and my heart sinks as I realise she was shown no mercy here.

As I search for the answers her family are begging for, I learn that the girl I swore to protect was moved around in secret. And when I find a message scratched on a food tin in a damp cell, I know I am getting closer to Phyllis at last…

But there are some who want the secrets of the war to be left in the past. Someone is sending me threatening letters, trying to scare me to stop... In finding answers about the girl who haunts my dreams, am I not only risking her life but my own too?

A heartbreaking, and completely unputdownable World War Two page-turner about the extraordinary bravery of women in the war. Fans of The Alice Network, The Nightingale and The Midwife of Auschwitz will be utterly glued to this unforgettable novel.

The Girl Who Never Came Back by Suzanne Goldring was published on 23 August 2023 by Bookouture. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and for inviting me to be part of the Books On Tour. 

This is a sweeping historical fiction novel that spans the decades, concentrating on the women who served in the Special Operations Executive during World War Two. Goldring writes with authority and passion, it is clear that she's done such a lot of in-depth research and has produced a novel that is both educating and entertaining, although there are scenes within that are utterly heartbreaking and she does not shy away from the horrors of war. 

The story begins in the present day, at the funeral of Sylvia, an elderly lady who lived in a remote thatched cottage with her life long friend Peg. Peg and Sylvia both played their part in the war. Peg worked underground in a factory, whilst Sylvia also claimed that she did 'a lot of filing'.

The reader is taken back to war time as we follow Sylvia who does a lot more than just filing. She recruits and trains volunteer women who will become part of the Special Operative Executive. Daring and fearless, they are parachuted into France, to work alongside the resistance against the Germans. Sylvia has special affection for one of these girls; Phyllis; a nineteen-year-old beauty who is dignified and brave. 

Interwoven throughout the narrative are two separate threads; we see snippets from the Special Operative Executive training manual, and then we have copies of letters that Sylvia receives. These letters are disturbing, almost threatening at times, and are sent by the brother of Phyllis.

Phyllis doesn't return from France. Lots of the women don't return, and Sylvia is determined to track each one of them and discover what happened to them. It is this journey that exposes the true horror of what happened to some of the women whilst being held in various camps. The violence and brutality that they endured, their total and utter loyalty to their country and the way that some of the German soldiers speak about these women is eye opening and horrific. 

Sylvia spends the rest of her life feeling guilty about her 'girls'. The slightest bang can set her off, and the regular letters from Phyllis' brother cast a shadow over her life forever. 

Suzanne Goldring has created some exceptional characters within this novel. Sylvia who is dedicated, yet empathic and caring. Peg who is innocent and somewhat naive at times, but a loyal friend, and of course Phyllis who along with the other women who gave their lives in the war are the real heroes of this story.

Historical fiction at its finest and entrenched in the truth. Highly recommended. 

Following an eventful career as a public relations consultant, specialising in business and travel, Suzanne Goldring turned to writing the kind of novels she likes to read, about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. Whether she is working in her thatched cottage in Hampshire or her seaside home in North Cornwall, Suzanne finds inspiration in the secrets hidden by everyday life.

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