Read Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner Online


She stood at a crossroads, half-aware that her choice would send her down a path from which there could be no turning back. But instead of two choices, she saw only one—because it was all she really wanted to see… Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when theShe stood at a crossroads, half-aware that her choice would send her down a path from which there could be no turning back. But instead of two choices, she saw only one—because it was all she really wanted to see… Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets about the war that she has kept for decades...beginning with who she really is. What Kendra receives from Isabel is both a gift and a burden--one that will test her convictions and her heart. 1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, one million children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed…...

Title : Secrets of a Charmed Life
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780451419927
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 386 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Secrets of a Charmed Life Reviews

  • Sarah
    2019-05-13 13:00

    This book ALMOST made my list of best books I've ever read. I've rarely been so swallowed up in a story since I was ten and read the Little House series. Susan did a masterful job of making me care about Emmy and Julia and then, well, stringing me along on a horrific ride through the London Blitz.And then. And then we came to the last section of the book presented as journal entries and although there was no way I was going to quit reading at that point, the story lost its momentum. I no longer had a front row seat to the action. And that action included the moment I'd scrambled through war-torn England to reach. It was a good ending, I was satisfied with how the story turned out, but I felt robbed of the chance to be present for the climatic moment.I wouldn't have minded so much if the book hadn't been so incredibly good. I still HIGHLY recommend this book, I just wish I could have been there when . . . well, you'd better read it for yourself.

  • Lori
    2019-04-24 12:51

    Loved it! I really appreciate the fact that Meissner didn't feel the need to create a complicated "present" story... the past took center stage. Wonderfully and descripitively written to where I felt compelled to Youtube videos from the "Blitz". Must have been a truely terrifying time to be a Londoner. I look very forward to reading more by Meissner. 4.5 stars.

  • Fiona Sheppard
    2019-04-25 14:04

    Only just started this book but it is already irritating me! With alls it's talk of 'sidewalks' and putting their foot on the 'gas' when referring to the accelerator in a car. I keep expecting to find out that the main protagonists are recent American immigrants . If you are going to write a book about the Blitz in London from an English perspective and expect English readers to take it seriously little things like this are important. I keep waiting for the next gaff ( mistake ).

  • Melisa
    2019-05-19 20:49

    "Fear is worse than pain, I think. Pain is centralized, identifiable, and wanes as you wait. Fear is a heaviness you can't wriggle out from under. You must simply find the will to stand with it and start walking. Fear does not start to fade until you take the step that you think you can't."This is a relatively simple story of ordinary people during an extraordinary time, but is complex in its development. It is the story of how one decision can change your entire life. I think I often fall into the trap of wanting to read twist after turn and suspense and action. While the book contains quite a bit of the action of WWII, it is a slow story told beautifully and I loved how it unfolded. As someone who is enamored with history, I thoroughly enjoyed the opening question that sets the stage for the entire story:"Ah, but what is history? Is it a record of what happened or rather our interpretation of what happened?" "I think it's both," I answer. "It has to be both. What good is remembering an event of you don't remember how it made you feel? How it impacted others. How it made them feel. You would learn nothing and neither would anyone else."4.5 stars.

  • Tara Chevrestt
    2019-05-03 19:07

    I love being shocked, being forced to think, and becoming completely engrossed in someone else's story. This book certainly didn't disappoint. I was sucked in by the engaging narrative. I was left in suspense as to the ending. I was forced to think hard on the issue it tackles: blame. Notably blaming oneself for things out of one's control.And this was a good lesson for me right now.The lowdown: It's London, WWII; the actual focus is what happens during the Blitz. Though the story delves into the before and after, it's about how the Blitz completely changed the course of people's lives: two sisters, their mother, an "aunt", and more. Hardly a single soul went unaffected. It's about family being torn apart and while you could point the finger at so-and-so for having done this and so-and-so for not having done that, in the end, the blame lies with war itself.It's about blame, beating one self up, and there's a side story about being forced to grow up before one's time. Being forced to be a mother when one isn't. Taking on more responsibility than one is ready for. So many lessons wrapped up in these pages.And there's a mystery too, one you can never possibly figure out till the very end. Yet we can make assumptions. It's like a guessing game. In the end I was blown away by how many people were involved and didn't even realize it.Imagine living that way for real. What happened to her? Did she die? Did someone find her? Was it my fault? Imagine thinking that for twenty years, and you'll be in Emmy's shoes. I love the way this story came together; the brides dresses, the umbrellas, the names. I felt for both heroines. I was on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next. And because so much of this tale could be considered spoilers, I hesitate to write paragraphs explaining what happens. This is one you need to read for yourself. You won't regret it. In the end, I was amazed at how so many people were involved, at who made errors in judgement and didn't realize what they were doing.The writing is stellar and engrossing. Not too much of anything; not too little. The modern story is very minimal and you only need it to tie things together, but this didn't bother me at all. It worked well. There wasn't enough of it to distract me from the history and lesson and the story of mothers and daughters and sisters within the pages. And the final lesson (at least to me): the closest you get to a "charmed" life is allowing yourself to be happy.

  • Holly
    2019-05-08 14:04

    I received this book through a goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.I loved this story! I thought it was beautiful in a simple way but still left an impact on me. I just cannot imagine going through something like the London Blitz in WWII. Such a sad and devastating time. This book made me feel like I was there going through it with Emmy. I could feel her loss and hopelessness. I could feel her desire to prove herself and to shed herself after losing so much. Emmy's story was wonderfully told, one that I'm happy to have had an opportunity to read.

  • Kavita
    2019-05-12 20:09

    American authors should really just stick to American fiction. This story reads like a modern American teenager throwing hussy fits when nothing goes her way, only in a Blitz setting. The disconnect between history and character reaction is gaping. Just think, this is similar to a blend of High School Musical and the SS marching down the street in the same plot. It's disconcerting to say the least. Not the least concession was made to the fact that this book was not set in the modern US. I might have been able to overlook this big fault if there were anything good with the book. The plot held out a promise, which is why I chose the book. But gosh, it SO did not deliver! I am giving the plot away below because I don't want you all to read it and suffer like I did. So, SPOILERS ahead!Emmy and Julia are two sisters who live in London. Emmy is a shit-faced bitch, and Julia is a lonely kid. Their mother is a single mother and is often absent, trying to provide a good life for them. But Emmy keeps slut-shaming her and thinks of her as a whore despite hogging on the food she brings. As far as I am concerned, the mother is doing her duty towards her children, whether by sleeping with someone for money or not, is none of anyone's business, least of all, the nincompoop Emmy's who is being fed and clothed with this money. Also, it turns out that the mother was not a prostitute, so Emmy made more than a fool of herself. I disliked this character so much that I kept hoping the Germans would drop a bomb directly on her head.The only idea in Emmy's otherwise empty head is to design stupid wedding gowns. Really? This is a career? In the wartime with rationing, when people were struggling to get basic food rations? According to her, this will make her rich and famous "when the war is over". She sets up an appointment with a big designer for a job, but before anything could proceed, she is evacuated along with many of London's children to the countryside, where she proceeded to make herself unpleasant with prospective foster parents. Finally, the two sisters move in with a woman. Emmy keeps in touch with the designer and gets a date for the interview. So she plans to sneak off with her box of sketches into the night without a thought about pretty much anyone else. Her little sister discovers the truth and naturally doesn't want to be left alone. So she makes Emmy promise that she would either not go or take her along with her. But poor Julia is trusting an unreliable idiot, because Emmy still plans to sneak off leaving a seven year old Julia behind! As luck would have it, Julia wakes up in the middle of the night, and Emmy faces a dilemma. Or at least, she should have faced. But Emmy doesn't give a shit about anyone else, so she takes Julia along with her to London, towards the war! Oh, stupid wedding dresses are so much more important than little sisters! And then she loses Julia, and her mother dies trying to find her. Emmy is now left to mourn and then she assumes the identity of a woman called Isabel, so that she could keep searching for Julia. But for some strange reason, she continues to keep that name after the war, lies to the man she marries about her real identity and then claims she is too traumatised with the war to give any kind of freedom to her daughter. Yeah, right! It's not really strange because this is what disgusting Emmy does. It's all about her. Then some American woman shows up and Emmy tells her the REAL story that she never told anyone else. Why? Because halfwit Emmy only likes Americans? Whatever.Julia's part of the story is hurried through and doesn't even make it to a decent narrative. Her entire life story is condensed into a few letters that she wrote to herself as part of her therapy. This is about the clumsiest narrative device I have ever seen in a book. At the very least, Meissner could have told the story from Julia's pov and stuffed the annoying Emmy into a few pages. Just skip this stupid book about the angst of a stupid girl who basically just brings it all on herself. I must admit I was happy with the ending. Very happy that Emmy doesn't get to design wedding dresses. Ha! Go fuck yourself, Emmy!

  • Tammy
    2019-05-15 16:46

    Whyyyyyy did I wait so long to read this book?! It is an excellent, beautifully written novel of two sisters who are tragically affected by the World War II bombings of London. Emmy is a strong female character who has lofty dreams, and we see her mature into a woman on a quest to make up for regrets. Julia is the younger sister who lives with different regrets and is deeply affected by what occurs in London. I had a lump in my throat for the entire last part (of 3). Many life lessons can be learned in these pages. I will think about this book for a long time to come.

  • Donia
    2019-04-30 16:56

    I deeply appreciate writers who tackle historical fiction and mean Ms. Meissner no disrespect. I truly wished to read a good story about War Time London but this poorly crafted story simply did not deliver.Perhaps it would have worked if it was listed as Juvenile Fiction? As an adult consumer I was annoyed by this poorly constructed story. At every twist and turn the plot was advanced through the use of transparent props. The blitz has happened; Winter is coming, Emily needs a warm coat; oh my there is a suit case with a coat and pajamas; gloves; everything she needs. Emily needs a light to see with; oh my she just happens to have a key to the one and only building left standing in London with electricity and running water. This teenage know it all school drop out just happens to interest nationally acclaimed journalists. No way. Sorry.

  • Pamela
    2019-05-02 19:40

    Quite the enthralling story!!!!We make our choices - you and I - in a world that isn't perfect. And while I wish I had made different choices, as I know you do, which one of us can say that if we had, nothing bad would have ever happened to the people we love?" A story of mothers and daughters and sisters, uniting and colliding within the volatile realities of war - real and imagined wars. And so much more: shattered dreams, burning hope, love, loss, grief, solitude, redemption, and restoration. Susan Messiner is a beautifully gifted storyteller, weaving contemporary fiction with that of historical in a moralistically astute and emotionally satisfying way. "[W]hen you make a choice, even if it's a bad one, you've played your hand. You cannot live your life as though you still held all your cards." Everyday we make choices. Some turn out quite well. Others, not so much; leaving a trail of sorrows and regrets in our wake. Like a pebble dropped in a pond, these choices can have far reaching rippling effects as evidenced in Secrets of a Charmed Life through the realistically imagined characters of Emmy and Julia Downtree.[L]ife is lived at the moment you are living it . . . No one but God in heaven has the benefit of seeing beyond today." This emotive-rich story made me think, feel, and ponder - deeply at times; reaching back into my turbulent teenage years in conjunction with my often strained relationship with my own mother and finding correlating connections. In this sense, I feel Meissner is spot on when it comes to the ups and downs of mother/daughter relationships. Relationship-exploration in general is one of her strengths. And I truly appreciate her choice to write cleanly, sans vulgarity, no matter how unsettling or dark the subject matter. On a less stellar note, "Secrets of a Charmed Life" doesn't behold the most authentic voice in terms of narrative. It's evident an American author is attempting a British narration - without complete success. Nothing to get cockeyed over; at least not in my estimation. However, literary purists might find it irksome beyond forgiveness. Meissner also tends to be overly zealous with explanatory details. Every cause-and-effect instance need not be spelled out in minute details; readers aren't without deductive reasoning skills. Then again, maybe some readers prefer being spoon fed????? Overall, peeves aside, this a beautiful touching story. It brings to light conflicting choices Britons had to make during world war two in regards to family and survival. And it explores family bonds, promises, secrets, intents, burdens, and disappointments. "Mum had made an exchange, just like everyone does when quaking under a load that seems far too heavy. She exchanged a transparent life of abject poverty for one of secrets and illusion that kept her and her daughters fed and clothed . . . This was how people balanced the scales [when] their world was tipping . . . " FOUR **** Historically Noteworthy, Mother/Daughter Endearing **** STARS

  • Sara
    2019-05-11 16:01

    3.5 stars rounded up.This tale of two sisters, Emmy and Julia Downtree, takes place during the days of World War II when London was under the Blitz and children were evacuated out of the city into the countryside. It is a story of misconception, too many assumptions, too many actions without enough forethought to avoid dire consequences and the grief that comes from making a mistake you feel you can never rectify.Throughout the story you want to scream at Emmy, “don’t do that” or “think about what you are doing”, but she is fifteen and she acts from impulse, as fifteen year olds so often do. She misjudges her mother and in many ways distrusts her, and she sees only part of a situation but judes it as all. Her rashness costs her dearly and puts her sister’s life and well-being at jeopardy as well. While it is hard to live with messing up your own life, sometimes it is even harder to live with your effect on the lives of others. The truth is uncovered in layers in the novel. Truths about self, about others, and about events. As one character says, The truth is a strange companion. It devastates one moment and enthralls the next. But it never deceives. And because of that, in the end, it comforts.I particularly liked this reflection on time and grief ...but if I know anything about time, it is that it stretches to walk with you when you grieve. The rest of the world may zoom past at breakneck speed but when you are learning to live with loss, time slows down to the pace of your breathing.And, the quote from which the title springs, that is all about responsibility and guilt: I want her to see that I understand there are no secrets to a charmed life. There is just the simple truth that you must forgive yourself for only being able to make your own choices, and no one else’s.Meisser has done a good job of recreating the historical time frame, weaving believable characters and investing them with meaning beyond their own individual stories. An easy narrative with enough mystery and emotion to keep you reading to the end.

  • Jennifer Nelson
    2019-05-02 20:03

    Warning: If you get irritated by "prudish" reviews, stop now. You won't enjoy this one.I feel very disappointed right now. Susan Meissner has a way with words and I was immediately swept away by her beautiful prose and fully developed characters. I started to get a bit uneasy when the Lord's name was taken in vain a couple of times, but thought it surely would be a rare occurrence and I could press on. Meissner is a Christian author after all. Then I realized that the book really didn't contain any Christian elements and the perspective on life presented was rather hopeless and dreary. Then more crude language and awful use of God's name popped up again and again. When it dawned on me that this book was going to include a sex scene, that was the last straw. I ended up skimming quickly over the last few chapters and was again disappointed to see that the book offered little hope. I can't understand why the author would spend so much time writing a well-crafted story and squander the opportunity to point readers to God and His light. I'm not looking for a sermon or for clumsy Christian messages, just some light and some hope. Is that too much to ask?

  • TL
    2019-05-01 19:51

    3.5 stars :) *Some editing, more thoughts on the story*This is inspirational fiction but it doesn't feel preachy, it's just a lovely story... I normally don't read much of this genre (nothing against it, just doesn't cross my radar very often) but the synopsis had caught my eye and (thanks to Kate Morton, I love these kinds of stories) I was eager to read it... dove into it without reading any reviews.Thanks again to my friend Shaun for gifting me this for Christmas :).It starts off slow, building up the lives of Emmy,Julia, and their mom before the war came to England. Not compelling exactly but it keeps your attention as the story moves along. We're immersed into the lives of these people and ache with Emmy as she endures the disappearance of her sister and the uncertainty if what had happened to her... and having a hard time of forgiving herself for her 'mistakes'Emmy annoyed me in the beginning when she and Julia were evacuated, her determination to be a designer of wedding dresses and scheming to get back to London matter what. I understood her better later on. Emmy starts out optimistic, believing anything is possible and excited envisioning her future.Then Emmy and Julia were evacuated to the countryside to keep them safe and many events were set in motion.----After all that had happened, I thought she was too harsh on herself and another character as well but I could sort... not understand exactly( but for lack of a better word) why they felt how they did. I truly don't know how I would have reacted if I had had to live through all they did.Charlotte was a wonderful character as well, someone I would have loved to know and Thistle House sounds so beautiful (The kind of house I would want to have).Couldn't help but love Julia, such a sweet kid:).Isabelle's husband was a good man, I admired him. Part three had me wanting to give the person whose POV it was a big hug... both this one and Emmy were brave people, pushing on despite what life has thrown at them.The relationships between everyone were extremely well done, the bonds felt natural and not forced at all. Each one has their own powerful effect on the story and in some motivations of each person.A beautiful ending that made me smile as well.The narrator is lovely, a softish way of speaking that suits the story wonderfully. It took me a bit to warm up to it but she was a good fit for it. Not my favorite narrator but I would probably listen to her narrating something else in the future.Would recommend, happy reading!

  • Mlpmom (Book Reviewer)
    2019-04-25 13:01


  • Carol
    2019-05-16 15:40

    What an awesome journey Meissner takes us on!!! I love to learn history while submerged in a story full of events and characters that touch my emotions! Highly recommend!!

  • Dianne
    2019-04-29 14:50

    Could not get past the first few pages. Tedious, excessive references to irrelevant details (i.e. scenery). Predictable and cliche descriptions (i.e. English cottage). And really? They scheduled her interview with the lady on the same day as her 93rd birthday party? How realistic is that? Well, just as realistic as everything else I read the first few pages....not at all. I'm all for running away, fantasy, a perfectly dreamy world to escape to, etc. But this is just too much.

  • Morana Mazor
    2019-05-19 14:48

    Još jedna priča o ljudskim sudbinama i kako je malo dovoljno da sve krene (krivim) putem.. Ovaj put pratimo priču dvaju sestara tijekom Drugog svjetskog rata u Londonu (i okolici- onim divnim, engelskim seocima..).

  • Carole
    2019-05-13 16:55

    I loved Susan's last book, Fall Of Marigolds, & this one is every bit as good. She writes 2 story lines, one from the past, and one present day. I always favor the historical story, and was so glad this focused on the WW2 tale of Emmy and Julia, 2 sisters who were separated during the bombings on London by Germany. The only minor thing I wasn't fond of was the 3rd part told by Julia in letter form. If you are a historical fiction fan, this should be on your list to read soon! I look forward to her next book!

  • Myrna
    2019-05-22 18:04

    Slow to start but interesting to read as the story unravels. Secrets of a Charmed Life is a beautiful historical fiction full of joy, heartache, surprises, tension, and sadness. The author captures WWII in England and the evacuated children well. Highly recommended if you like to read WWII historical fiction books about sisterly love and how fate can change lives. This will definitely not be my last Meissner book!

  • Kimberly
    2019-05-13 13:51

    This book was an enjoyable read, but I must admit I am a little baffled: I've read nothing but rave reviews and high praise about this novel, so I was anticipating it to land among my favorite books, but it fell drastically short. Again, I reiterate: I liked this book. But I also found it lacking—what, exactly, I can't quite figure out. Perhaps this book was at the disadvantage of having just been read after a book of approximately 530 pages (and before that, a book of 870 pages) because I felt this story seemed rushed, missing details and exploration of some plot points that would have pushed it over the edge from being an enjoyable read to being a story in which I completely immersed myself. I welcomed a shorter read as a follow up to those heftier books, and this book tells the story it sets out to tell, a beautiful account of two sisters whose lives are forever changed by war and the secrets that follow them in the years following, but I guess I just wanted more. Despite my own desire to glean more, I recommend this book for an easy, pleasant read.

  • Rachel
    2019-05-15 19:08

    DNF @ 42%Dynamically annoying sisters. Flat plot.Lack of historical atmosphere.

  • Lily (Night Owl Book Cafe)
    2019-05-13 16:47

    The moment I saw that Susan Meissner wrote another book, I knew I had to have it. Last time I read one of her books I fell completely in love with her elegant writing and storytelling and found myself falling in love all over again. She is one of many authors that keep my interest with historical fiction alive and why I keep coming back to this genre over and over again.The story mostly follows a 15-year-old girl Emmy Downtree, her story told by Isabel McFarland when a young scholar comes to interview the elderly woman in hopes of learning some secrets about the war. Emmy has big dreams, and all she really wants is to find love and acceptance from her mother, for her to be proud of Emmy. She loves to draw wedding dresses, so when she get's a job at a wedding dress shop, it feels like a dream come true. When her boss informs her that she knows a man who is willing to look at Emmy's brides and could offer her an apprenticeship, Emmy can't believe her luck. Luck, that unfortunately soon starts to run out. When the war escalates, Emmy's mother signs both of Emmy and her half-sister Julia to evacuate London and find refuge in the country side. What happens next changes both of the girl's life forever...Such an emotional, riveting tale about love, lose, hope and perseverance. I found myself glued to page after page, immersed in the fantastic storytelling by Meissner. Emmy was just a young girl who thought she was doing the right thing, who just wanted to make her dream come true. In turn she watched her entire world crumble into pieces when the blitz hit and she found herself losing everything that has ever been important to her. I don't want to dig into the story as much as I want to talk about it more with a fear of revealing a little too much. I did find myself irritated by Emmy's reckless behavior, I found it selfish and one-sided, but I understood that she was just a young girl who was looking to make her mother proud. In hopes that Emmy would never feel like she had ruined her mother's life, she wanted to show her that she could do something good with hers.I found myself in tears by the end of the book. Everything that left me with questions midway through did get answered at the end of the book. Luckily there was closure, or else I am not sure how I would have done without it. I wanted to know what became of Emmy and how she coped with the hand that was dealt to her. How she managed to get through with losing so much in so little time. Her tenacity and ambition to make things right were inspiring, so was the fact that she had a hard time giving up. The 15-year-old girl had to grow up fast during the blitz and become a strong and independent woman.I could have just hugged this book after reading it. Enjoyed it immensely, glad I gave it a shot and hope to see more from Susan Meissner soon.I got a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange of an honest review.

  • Rori
    2019-04-22 20:51

    The back cover leads you to believe that this story is about the intersection of two lives, one a modern young history student, the other an elderly watercolor painter who survived the Second World War in England. Let's just forget the first person (Kendra) because her only role is to set the stage for the second (Isabel) to tell her secret story that she apparently kept untold for years and years (though, as the story progresses, we find out there are actually many people who know the story but keep it on the DL because... who knows why at this point). We learn very little about Kendra other than the fact that she finds Isabel's story intriguing. The only mystery surrounding her is why Isabel chooses to tell her the story... spoiler alert, there is no real compelling reason why it's Kendra and not somebody else. The plot of Isabel's story actually had a lot of promise and as I was reading it I couldn't help but think that this would make a nice screenplay, though perhaps I felt this way because the author at times goes into unnecessary detail about what a person was looking at or touching or hearing. The descriptiveness got a bit leaden at times and the abundant use of proper names "Emmy said... and then Emmy said... Emmy looked around" made it feel more like stage directions than reading as a novel. I've not read any of Meissner's other stories, so I'm not sure if this is a stylistic trait of hers, but I did find it a bit distracting and inelegant. On the whole a pleasant distracting read. Not one I would add to my permanent collection, but not unpleasant either.

  • Zeena
    2019-05-13 14:40

    Once I picked this book up I couldn't put it back down. The characters were easy to love and to feel their pain. Historical fiction at its best. Highly recommended.

  • Krystal Bond
    2019-04-23 19:04

    4.25 I loved reading yet another perspective of World War II. This story was very gripping and kept we wonder in until nearly the end if the two sisters in the story are ever reunited after so much heartache and loss from the Blitz. They both overcame so much over the years I wanted so badly for there to be a happy ending to this story. I enjoyed reading about Emmy, her story, as other historical fiction novels have, made me feel closer to history in a sense. This isn't the most heart wrenching historical fiction novel I've read, but it is definitely wonderful and worth reading.

  • Michelle
    2019-05-13 17:47

    Oh how I loved this book about a young London woman (girl) during the Blitz. The author does such a fantastic job describing the complete incongruity of the situation, set against Emmy's idealistic nature. And the theme of sisterhood- wow. I was completely enchanted from the first page. Highly, highly recommended.

  • Carolyn Hill
    2019-05-10 19:41

    Secrets of a Charmed Life is a very old-fashioned story. It reminded me of those classic black and white World War II movies - a little melodramatic, a little cheesy, a little too contrived, but designed to tug at your heartstrings - cue the sappy music. The kind of old movies I find enjoyably satisfying. When I checked out this book, I was not aware that it is categorized as inspirational fiction, a genre I don't usually read; not because I have anything against it per se, just that I don't like to be hit over the head with a message. For the most part the author fortunately avoids this with a compelling story. Meissner isn't morally judgmental or preachy, but the main character, separated from her sister during the London blitz, spends the greater part of the book in regret, castigating herself for her decisions and actions. This carries through with all the characters who lend a voice to the story. Personal regrets stemming from tragic losses can certainly be agonizing, with 'what ifs' always preying on the mind. What makes this ultimately annoying and repetitive is that none of the 'bad' decisions were meant to intentionally cause harm, or were so selfish that others were never considered. The main characters are nice and likable and care for their family. A fifteen-year-old girl is stubbornly caught up in her ambitious dreams, as fifteen-year-old girls often are, blindly ignoring the dangers as war begins. Her seven-year-old sister schemes to not be left behind and keep her sister with her. They are young innocents caught in world events, not adults acting in defiance. A war intervened that brought loss and tragedy. The author does make the point they are not to blame for what happened, but also goes on about bearing the costs of our decisions. Self forgiveness is often hard to come by. But as with those old black and white movies, resolution and a happy ending are almost surely guaranteed.

  • Anna
    2019-05-16 14:03

    Isabel McFarland believes it is time to tell her story. Through her telling comes thee recounting of the lives of Emmy and Julia Downtree. They are sisters living with a single mother in London during the bombings from the Luftwaffe in WWII. Their mother sends them to the countryside to be sheltered by a foster family. They are fortunate to be taken in by a caring couple of sisters. But Emmy's dreams cause her to make some poor choices that change the course of their lives. The sisters are left to pay for those choices, changing their futures. A couple of wonderful quotes:"Fear is worse than pain, I think. Pain is centralized, identifiable and wanes as you wait. Fear is a heaviness you can't wiggle out from under. You must simply find the will to stand with it and start walking. Fear does not start to fade until you take the step that you think you can't.""...truth is a strange companion. It devastates one moment and enthralls the next. But it never deceives. And because of that, in the end, it comforts."I would highly recommend this book to fans of historical fiction.Really 4.5 stars

  • Andrea
    2019-05-02 16:01

    4.5 StarsWhat a gorgeous story of circumstance and regret. This was a special book.

  • Helen
    2019-05-21 15:07

    3.5 stars Secrets of a Charmed Life is set during the Second World War and follows two sisters who are evacuated to the countryside from London, so the premise immediately appealed to me. I’ve always found the experiences of the thousands of evacuees during WW2 fascinating so I was eager to read a book set against this backdrop. The Blitz seems to be a popular setting for historical novels and this book uses the chaos and trauma that it brought to demonstrate how one mistake can change your life forever as the protagonist, Emmy, is separated from her younger sister. The main issue this book tackles is regret and how to live a happy and fulfilled life when you don’t believe you deserve to be happy.‘There is just the simple truth that you must forgive yourself for only being able to make your own choices, and no one else’s’ The book has a simple and engaging narrative which works pretty well but at 350 pages I think it could have gotten away with being slightly longer. There were very few characters overall and the last section really flew through the years so I think the story definitely could have been fleshed out a bit more. Okay, on to my main quibble with this book. The (American) author had apparently done some extensive research into the London Blitz before writing yet despite all her knowledge of the main air raids and death statistics, etc., she still didn’t understand the concept of a British terraced house. She kept referring to the house where Emmy lives as a ‘flat’ despite describing it as a self-contained building, with its own front door and garden, that just happens to be connected to other ‘flats’ on either side… so it’s part of a row of houses then? I know this is a small thing but every time she referred to what was blatantly a terraced house as a flat my respect for the author died a little. To demonstrate the extent to which this annoyed me, I might have rounded my 3.5 star rating up to 4 stars if it hadn’t been for this, and the repeated use of other American terms such as ‘candy’ in a novel supposedly set in Britain and narrated by a British person was just the icing on the cake. Also, did the average household have a refrigerator in 1940? I’m pretty sure the answer’s no but I guess Meissner and I will just have to agree to disagree on this one.