In "Eleanor’s Secret", Caroline Beecham skilfully interweaves two timeframes—World War II and the present. Eleanor’s job with the War Artist Advisory Committee entails selecting artists to portray the war for posterity and propaganda, while as a woman, her own artistic talent is overlooked. The mysterious artist Jack Valante initially resists signing an artist’s contract, but cannot withstand Eleanor’s appeal. Their romance blossoms until he is sent to the front. Years later, Eleanor asks her granddaughter, Kathryn, to locate Jack.
Beecham’s rigorous research is evident in the wartime scenes. The setting and the character’s attitudes paint a convincing picture of the era. The author’s love of art is apparent in her evocative descriptions of relevant pieces. Her extracts from Jack’s diary evoke the grim reality of war.
In the current day scenes, Beecham captures Kathryn’s chaotic life complete with marriage problems and a son on the autism spectrum. When Kathryn flies from Australia to England to help her grandmother, she is explores the issues of national identity—is she happy in Australia, or should she answer the call of her homeland?
This is the second of Beecham’s books. The first, Maggie’s Kitchen, also set in wartime England, examines the struggle to provide meals during this time of hardship. In both, Beecham portrays strong women contributing to the war effort in innovative and constructive ways. I highly recommend them.
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