Monday, August 23, 2021

Review - The Secret Diary

:   The Secret Diary
Author:  Anna Stuart
Publisher:  Bookouture
Genre:   Historical Fiction
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   337
Date of Publication:   August 3, 2021
My Rating:   5 Stars


Two women. One house. And a secret that spans decades…

The past merges with the present in an unforgettable, poignant story of love, loss and courage in this beautifully written story set between World War Two and the present day.

She steps into the room and it’s like going back in time.

Catapulting her right into the heart of the 1940s.

The spindle of the record player frozen and ready to play. The flowery wallpaper faded but intact. A soldier’s uniform pressed and hung on a door, coal still in the fireplace.

A floorboard creaks beneath her and she notices a small desk in the corner of the room. She opens the top drawer and runs her hands along the edges, something catching at her fingertips. A hidden compartment. And behind it, the soft edges of a book.

As she dusts it off, she can see it has a red leather covering, the pages yellowing with age. She realises it’s a diary. Some of the pages have been torn out. The first entry has 16th June 1945 printed in neat little letters at the top. Below it, in hurried, untidy script are the words:

‘My name is Nancy Jones. And I have a secret…’

Fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, The Alice Network, and Lilac Girls will love this incredible tale of the amazing bravery and inspiring friendships of everyday women during World War Two that had the power to change history.

Lorna Haynes has her two boys with her, Charlie and Stan, when she goes to stay with her mother shortly after the death of her beloved husband. Lorna and the boys will be staying in a house called The Gamekeeper's Cottage, beautiful on the outside, but definitely in need of renovation. She is a history teacher, so discovring a precious diary in a dressing table surely catches her attention. 

The diary begins with the date of 16 June 1945, and was written by Nancy Jones Wilson. Nancy once lived in the Cottage, which was now her family hyome after marrying Joe, a man she met while they were both in the military in 1943. The two marry about a year later, and they had been seperated due to the war. With the war being over, Nancy and Joe move to his parents farm and take up residence. Nany may be happy with Joe, but she had learned quite a bit as part of the ATS, Auxiliary Territorial Service, on a gun crew with three other women. Becoming a housewife and cooking, cleaning and sewing is certainly not what Nancy now has in mind for her immediate future. Ted is Joe's father, and his passes his expectations about Nancy down to Joe. 

These are among the things Lorna is now reading about in the diary. Finding the diary proves to be a very good distraction for Lorna, because her grief is almost more than she can bear. The deeper Lorna gets into the diary, the more curious she finds herself about Nancy and the other women. 

This exceptional read is accompanied by very informative Historical Notes that are well worth reading. The women in the military, especially Nancy as this dual-timeline story, played pivotal roles, and this book shows their importance in Britain. Nancy Jones may have been a fictional character, but proved an exceptional portrayal of how important these women were, and how difficult it would have been to squeeze back into more traditonal roles.
Many thanks to Bookouture and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.


I wanted to be an author from the moment I could pick up a pen and was writing boarding-school novels by the age of nine. I made the early mistake of thinking I ought to get a ‘proper job’ and went into Factory Planning – a career that gave me some wonderful experiences, amazing friends and even a fantastic husband, but didn’t offer much creative scope. So when I stopped to have children I took the chance to start the ‘improper job’ of writing. During the baby years I wrote in the brief gaps provided by sleeps, playschools and obliging grandparents, publishing short stories and serials in all the women’s magazines.

But my ultimate aim was to write longer fiction and several years ago I published a series of successful historical novels under the pseudonym Joanna Courtney. I will continue to publish under that name but am delighted, as Anna Stuart, to also be able to write contemporary fiction.  Bonnie and Stan is a true to life romance set in both the present day and sixties Liverpool and Four Minutes to Save a Life is a domestic drama about how small acts of kindness might just change the world!


No comments:

Post a Comment