Two English sisters become estranged during the Second World War while, in present-day New York, a photographer pursues the dramatic story behind their rift.
When Juno Lambert buys a vintage typewriter previously owned by esteemed newswoman Cordelia Capel, she finds an unfinished manuscript inside. Intrigued, Juno reads the novel (or is it a memoir?) and resolves to uncover what happened between Cordelia and her older sister, Irene. The chronicle begins in 1936, when Irene marries a German industrialist and moves to Berlin. At first, Irene is entranced by her handsome husband and the glamorous life they lead. Soon, though, she develops misgivings about him and his attachment to Nazi bigwigs. Cordelia, meanwhile, lands a job at a Paris newspaper and falls for the bureau chief, who leaves her, and his job, to fight Franco in Spain. The sisters correspond at first, but Cordelia becomes disillusioned with her sister’s sunny reports—unaware that Irene is not free to write what she wishes. Cordelia eventually returns to England to train as a spy while Irene’s life in the war-ravaged German capital deteriorates—though she too finds a way to undermine the Nazi effort. The book begins awkwardly, and the many hairpin plot turns are a little dizzying. It also covers some familiar turf—author Thynne (Solitaire, 2016, etc.) herself has written books with a similar setting—and flirts with melodrama. But this is a satisfying book, filled with vivid historical detail and surprisingly nuanced characters. It effortlessly integrates real-life figures, including the notorious double agent Kim Philby, who plays a small but pivotal role, and Martha Dodd, daughter of America’s ambassador to Germany, who befriends Irene.
An engrossing, suspenseful page-turner that defies expectations.