Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner


Image via Goodreads


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 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…


“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 out of 5 stars.


  1. The Literary Caper · July 27, 2016

    You’ve reviewed several books already that I want to read or have read! I just finished this one a little while ago, it was recommended because I liked Kate Morton, and it was pretty similar. The “secret” in this book wasn’t quite as shocking/mind-blowing as the ones Morton writes, but I still really enjoyed it.


    • thebookcollective · September 21, 2016

      I think we have very similar tastes in books! I absolutely adore Kate Morton, I’ve read all her books except for The Secret Keeper which I’m hoarding for a special occasion lol.


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