Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review: The Way to London by Alix Rickloff

Our family and our experiences shape us into the people we are. If we are loved, we are likely to become loving ourselves. And this is, of course, the life we all deserve and that we wish for others. But many people aren't brought up in love, instead they are brought up in pitiable or hurtful circumstances. This too shapes the people they become. Suffer neglect or disdain and we might assume that is our due and fade into the background or we might act out to force attention onto ourselves. Certainly we'd have trouble developing into a person who both gives and receives love. But it doesn't have to be this way. Some rare and strong people can break out of the emotional void in which they have been raised and learn to care for others. Alix Rickloff's newest novel, The Way to London, is a story of one such rare character as she bumps haltingly towards a kinder, more loving and open existence.

Lucy Stanhope is a pampered, spoiled brat. She's shallow and completely disaffected by anything that doesn't touch her personally. Yes, she's rather odious and delights in causing scandals but she's this way in large part because of the lack of love in her upbringing. She lives with her glamorous, titled mother, who refuses to be called mother by her daughter, and her sleazy but wealthy stepfather in Singapore. When she is caught carrying on an affair with the heir to a rich local family, she is banished from Singapore, sent back to England to live with an aunt she doesn't even know. On the way there, the ship she is on is torpedoed and eventually it turns out that Lucy is among the last to leave Singapore in advance of the Japanese invasion during WWII. When she reaches England, she is unhappy and continues with her scandalous attention seeking, larking about as if there wasn't a deadly war on. Uncharacteristically she befriends a young evacuee boy, Bill Smedley, and agrees to take him back to London from Cornwall to search for his mam.  Along the way, they face disappointment and diversions, misunderstandings and close calls, and Lucy is forced to trust and rely on steady, nice, good guy Michael McKeegan, a soldier invalided out of the army whom she first met in Singapore and whom she can't quite believe is for real. As Lucy tries to find her own sense of belonging and home, she struggles with the promise she made to Bill, especially when fulfilling that promise might conflict with her own possibly selfish wants and desires.

Lucy's character to start is defensive, brittle, brash, and determined. She is completely closed off to others emotionally, taking what she wants without getting her heart involved, never risking real hurt. Her behaviour may be shocking and undesirable but it shields an aching heart and when she opens up just a little to the sneaky, endearing rapscallion that is Bill, her whole being starts to change. Her experiences as the two of them, sometimes joined by Michael, journey toward London help to crystallize her character, giving her an insight into her own heart that she never before wanted to examine. Bill is a delightful, cheeky child and his presence as Lucy's side kick lightens the book up considerably. Their interactions are often humorous and sweet. Michael is almost too good to be true as a character and he selflessly plays Lucy's knight in shining armor more than once. The plot clips along at a good pace and the reader is often uncertain whether old Lucy (selfish and out for herself) or evolving Lucy (learning to honor commitments and not playing fast and loose with others) is going to choose what she does next. The historical details are well researched and presented and the scrapes that Lucy and Bill get into on the way to London and once there are completely believable and quite entertaining. The love story gets a little bit of a short shrift but Lucy is learning to love in more ways than just a traditional love story so it works. With so many WWII novels recently, this one stands out as different: a maturing and personal discovery set during wartime heightened and highlighted by the circumstances but still very internal for all that. Historical fiction fans who can get past an initially not altogether pleasant main character will enjoy this novel quite a bit.

For more information about Alix Rickloff and the book, check out her website, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter or Pinterest. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this book to review.


  1. This sounds different than any of the WWII books I've read, and I've read quite a few! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  2. Not only do I love books about WWII, but I am haunted by an old TV show of which I saw only a few episodes, called Tenko. It began as Singapore was falling, although the characters did not escape. Back in the pre-Internet days, it was hard to find or follow but I will have to check whether it is now available somewhere.


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