The Blue Hour by M J Greenwood: Review
Posted by Insertponceyfrenchnamehere on Thu, 27 May 2021
I'm delighted to announce the publication of yet another ABCTaler's debut novel: The Blue Hour by M.J. Greenwood, who writes on ABCTales as MJG
Here's a review by airyfairy:
The Blue Hour
M J Greenwood
M J Greenwood’s debut novel contains many elements of a traditional romance, but it isn’t simply a ‘love story’. This is a story about love, and that’s a very different thing.
In 1944 Tilly Barwise, a feisty and beautiful working-class teenager from Liverpool, meets the man of her dreams, American Flight Lieutenant Jack Turner. Their passionate affair brings Tilly to a job as carer for two young boys in Cornwall, and a life-changing friendship with their mother.
In 2015 Ava Westmoreland also arrives in Cornwall, heartbroken and demoralised after her divorce. She has been employed by Tilly’s daughter to care for the rude, cantankerous, unfailingly mischievous and still gloriously strong-willed near-90-year-old Tilly has become. Tilly doesn’t want to be looked after and Ava is only doing the job out of necessity. But from mutual antagonism grows a grudging respect that soon turns into a much warmer feeling.
Thus Greenwood cleverly employs romantic convention (initial hostility and misunderstanding turning, eventually, to love) not only to the two actual romances that run through the book, but to Tilly and Ava’s own relationship. She extends this further into the relationships both of them have with their neighbours – everyone agrees Tilly is pretty much unbearable, but everyone’s life is changed for the better by knowing her. There are many different kinds of love, the author is saying, and each has its own place and importance in our lives.
Tilly and Jack’s romance is the bedrock of the story, told through Jack’s letters and diaries and the accompanying accounts of Tilly’s experiences in her new and very different life. We are immediately hooked by the question, ‘How did Tilly then become Tilly now?’. A supporting cast of warm, funny and beautifully observed characters, and a genuine feel for time and place, then carry us along as we learn more about all the principals’ lives.
There is some wonderful descriptive writing. Tilly isn’t just given painkillers: ‘morphine uncoiled in her’. On a bike ride Ava glimpses ‘the russet pelt of a fleeting deer melt through a mushroom-scented canopy’. Greenwood injects great physicality into all her characters, and she doesn’t shy away from the visceral details of caring for an elderly person.
For me, one of the most interesting aspects of the novel was its exploration of that most complex relationship, the one between parent and child. This too is a recurring theme, its effects echoing down the years.
Greenwood’s skill in structuring her narrative means that a reader engrossed in the story will barely notice the enormous amount of research that has obviously gone into it. Great care is taken to ensure that details of places, clothing, food and general wartime life fit in seamlessly. There is a twist at the end, but it too fits gracefully into the story rather than being tacked on for effect, and adds a new dimension to these already vivid characters.
Another theme of this novel is that life is a continuous series of small and large revelations, each one enriching our understanding of past and present, and opening up new possibilities for the future. Tilly provides hope for that future as well as a link to the past, and she lingered in the mind of this reader long after the book ended.
You can order your copy on Amazon: