Mrs Sinclairs Suitcase - Louise Walters
Forgive me, Dorothea, for I cannot forgive you. What you do, to this child, to this child's mother, it is wrong...Roberta likes to collect the letters and postcards she finds in second-hand books. When her father gives her some of her grandmother's belongings, she finds a baffling letter from the grandfather she never knew - dated after he supposedly died in the war. Dorothy is unhappily married to Albert, who is away at war. When an aeroplane crashes in the field behind her house she meets Squadron Leader Jan Pietrykowski, and as their bond deepens she dares to hope she might find happiness. But fate has other plans for them both, and soon she is hiding a secret so momentous that its shockwaves will touch her granddaughter many years later..
Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase is packed full of secrets and deceptions. I wept my way through this deeply moving story of loss and soul searching, with a soggy tissue clutched in my palm.
It’s a dual time narrative (which I must admit I have a special fondness for, possibly as I can never decide whether I most love historical fiction or contemporary) Told from the modern day perspective of Roberta, whom I didn’t really warm to and the second world war era events in the life of Dorothy with whom I felt an immense kinship.
Present day, Roberta is a spinster, living with her cat in an apartment and working in a lovely independent bookshop “Old and New” by day, sorting through collections of collectable old books, she collects old letters found in second hand books. There aren’t many readers who won’t envy her this job, I do !
In one old book amongst a pile donated by her terminally ill father she discovers a mysterious letter addressed to Dorothea – her grandmother, still alive but over 100 years old and living in a nursing home, increasingly confused and frail. This communique, signed by Roberta’s grandfather and dated almost a year later than the date she understands he died, confuses her and grabs her imagination.
We are then transported back in time to the exceptionally emotional story of Dorothy, a young wife living near an airfield in WW2 her life suffused with loss, the death of her newborn son, an event that is set to affect her future actions and have consequences that transcend generations. Her husband away at war, she takes in 2 landgirls and when one day a plane crashes into the field behind her house, this accident leads her to meet Jan a young Polish airman, destined to play a big part in the story.
I had huge empathy for Dorothy and her story, although very bleak at times and sad, is gripping and compelling, you’ll be swept away by her emotions, feeling her trauma and passion right to the end of the book and I can understand why she makes some difficult choices and decisions and above all why she keeps things hidden, although I was actually traumatized that the one thing I hoped for above all, never materializes. You’ll know what I mean when you read the book.
Roberta, however is a less sympathetic character, I found her clandestine relationship with a married man she seems to care little for, rather distasteful and her aloofness and choice to avoid relationships although it becomes very apparent and very understandable why she is like this I did want to take her by the shoulders at several points and shake her!
I really enjoyed this story which is so much more than a romance it’s an intergenerational look at the way women’s lives are shaped by the men in them, even in their absence. Make sure you have a tissue handy when you read it. I feel this may appeal to anyone who enjoyed “The Guernsey Literary and potato peel pie society” or “The postmistress”
Huge thanks to Lovereading for my advance copy.
Buy your copy here due for publication in February.