Beneath a Frosty Moon

Written by Rita Bradshaw
Review by Jasmina Svenne

It’s 1940 and teenager Cora Stubbs is not happy about being evacuated from Sunderland to the Northumbrian countryside with her four younger siblings. She almost instantly crosses swords with the sinister Farmer Burns and his repressed wife Rachel, unaware that a second, more subtle menace lurks much closer…

In my experience, World War II sagas tend to fall into two categories – “We’re all jolly Cockneys/Brummies/Scousers/Geordies laughing our way through the Blitz” or “Eeh bah gum, it’s bleak Up North”. This book definitely falls into the latter category, with hardly any light relief between the dramas that Cora, and her mother Nancy, face. Bradshaw’s tendency to head-hop throughout each scene means she deprives herself of two of the most potent weapons in a writer’s armoury: ambiguity and suspense. The reader is never left in any doubt who the goodies and baddies are, and while the latter all have deeply troubled childhoods, none has a single redeeming feature. In fact, as story arcs go, the most interesting character is not Cora (who pretty much stays the same) but Rachel, who is changed radically by the evacuees and by Cora in particular.

There are some clunky info dumps to show the progress of the war and a few minor errors: haymaking should take place around June, rather than August; pheasants physically can’t fly very high or very far; and most farmers sell their best produce and eat cheaper alternatives, rather than consuming their own profits. I’m also not convinced by the forensics of a death near the end of the book but can’t say more for fear of spoilers. That said, Cora is a sparky heroine that saga readers are bound to warm to, and there are some lyrical descriptions of the countryside.