Eleanor’s Secret is British born, Sydney-based writer, Caroline Beecham’s second novel. Her first novel, Maggie’s Kitchen, is the story of a young woman who overcomes numerous challenges to open a restaurant during World War Two. It is currently being made into a ten-part television drama series.
In her second novel, Beecham builds on the wartime restaurant theme to include a government public morale initiative to brighten up the walls of English cafes, by recruiting local artists. Eleanor’s Secret switches back and forth between war-torn London and both Melbourne, Australia and London in 2010, covering five generations of a family and a long-kept secret.
Whilst modern-day Katherine appears as the main protagonist, her grandmother Eleanor is the lynchpin between the two eras. During the war, Eleanor was a young art school graduate recruited by the War Artists Advisory Committee to contract artists for the restaurant art scheme. She falls for an enigmatic young painter, Jack, who demonstrates an annoying pattern of disappearing without trace. They lose contact.
Fast forward nearly seventy years, and Eleanor begs her granddaughter to find out what happened to Jack, before it’s too late. Despite Katherine’s own domestic troubles, she humors Eleanor and embarks on a trip to England to discover what happened to Jack, hampered by her grandmother’s obsessive privacy and decades of secrecy.
Eleanor’s Secret is an engaging historical fiction, lost-love story with well-crafted, atmospheric descriptions.