A Song At Twilight
This is a nostalgic wartime novel set at RAF Harrowbeer and in Milton Combe on the fringes of Dartmoor. In 1943 Squadron-Leader Andrew Knight arrives to take over his first operational posting after recovering from his crash in Kent. His wife Alison, with their young son Hughie, accompanies him. The run-down house that they rent is turned into a home by Alison with the help of May Pettyjohn, the daughter of a friendly local family. The house and Alison become a sanctuary for Tubby Marsh, Andrew’s oldest friend; and for Ben, a newly qualified pilot, and Stefan, a Polish airman, when they need to try to forget the perils of night-flying and to discuss their own personal battles, loves and fears.
Lilian Harry is Orion’s best-selling author of wartime novels, and her skill as a writer is clearly demonstrated in this novel about ordinary people struggling to hold their lives together under the shadow of war. She uses just the right amount of historical detail to convey a sense of place and time without dominating the plot or characters. Similarly, by artfully using Devonian dialect words such as ‘moithered’ (upset/bothered) she has managed to conjure up an image of rural Devon during the war.
The lost powerful characters for me were Tubby Marsh and the Polish airman Stefan. This is because both of them are written with a degree of passion that sets alight one’s interest as a reader, and which most probably makes this one of Lilian Harry’s most compelling novels. Lovers of wartime fiction will devour this novel, and if they are lucky they may have some Devonshire clotted cream, homemade jam and scones to complement it!