- Book: The London Restoration
- Location: London
- Author: Rachel McMillan
This is a rich, well researched novel that will transport you back to the years through and either side of WW2. At the heart is the marriage between Diana and Brent Somerville, a gently told love story that forfeits a great deal when the two are separated through war.
Brent is on active duty in the trenches, working as a stretcher carrier and returns to battle scarred London with physical and mental injuries. Upon landing in the city he discovers that Diana has had to be absent for 5 weeks. She has been entrusted with a secret mission which opens the novel in Vienna. Her war work was working at Bletchley as a ‘translator’ but her real activities were much more clandestine.
Diana is now doing a favour for a friend and colleague, Simon Barr, who has moved on from the physical war just ended, to a war of minds as the Communist threat begins to make itself felt. Brett has a sense, of course, that his wife is withholding from him, and of course she is. Her work is classified. She has a huge interest in the Wren churches, even more so now that she is ‘visiting’ them, primarily for her own academic interest but also to ascertain whether drops are being made, assignations taking place within the often bombed out shells by “Eternity”, a Russian agent. Brent is Professor of Theology at King’s College and thus an excellent companion for her endeavours. When they happen upon an ancient artefact, they truly begin to understand the nature of Diana’s mission.
Woven into the story is incredibly detailed research about the churches of London, in particular those designed by Wren. I guarantee that you will be better informed by the end of the book! And I think it would be such fun to read this book and then visit the churches mentioned in the novel, it would be such a wonderful way to get acquainted with this aspect of the city, a very different way of appreciating what London has to offer.
There is quite some gun wielding and plenty of tea drinking to set the story firmly on British soil. The writing is quite formal, which of course mirrors the style of the era – it can, though, make the story, and particularly the love element between Diana and Brett – feel just a little stiff. Overall an enjoyable read.