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On a smaller scale and with slightly less melodramatic to-do than Joseph's previous hard-time romances (Maggie Craig, A Leaf in the Wind), this tidy yet gritty mini-saga follows the romantic ups and downs of deaf, pretty Sally Barnes, living amid family misery and constant bombing on the outskirts of WW II Liverpool. At first Sally is drawn to longtime neighbor David Turner; but he's a moody sort, with a nagging shrew of a mum (she soon dies in a bombing), and then filer David is reported missing in action, presumed dead in Europe. (The reader knows, however, that David is alive, finding refuge with a Belgian family.) So Sally is drawn instead to Lee Grant Willis, a drawling American volunteer in pre-Pearl Harbor England, training with the RAF--""like a young god with his bright gold hair and chiselled features""; she'll even visit him in London for a gentle night of first love. But meanwhile things are going from bad to worse in the dreary Barnes household: Sally's ""common"" mum Josie has been carrying on an affair with a soldier; her joyless, better-class dad Stanley knows he's a cuckold but remains stoically silent; then news comes that Sally's brother John has been killed in Libya--which drives Josie to attempt suicide. . . though the older couple does final some peace at last when they adopt John's illegitimate baby. (The mother, snippy Christine Duckworth, has married somebody else in John's absence.) And the novel's last few pages offer another, less convincing flurry of fate: beloved Lee is killed while on a drunken lark--and Sally turns to the returned David, who then suffers a war injury that leaves him speechless. . . but Sally, of course, is an expert at lip-reading. Except for this excessively goopy fade-out: a briskly likable serving of home-front woe and hope, thickening the formula romance with domestic grit, Sally's impediment (underplayed), and authentic air-raid atmosphere.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1983
Publisher: St. Martin's