Forbidden Places

Written by Penny Vincenzi
Review by Andrea Connell

Originally published in 1995 in the UK, Forbidden Places is another exhilarating, addictive read from England’s prolific doyenne of commercial women’s fiction. As Places makes its American debut only now, fans of Vincenzi’s delicious novels may be upset by what they have been missing all this time! This hefty historical family drama is the story of three marriages—and three women who struggle through all the perils wartime could possibly throw at them. Grace, Florence, and Clarissa, related through marriage and friendship, each struggle with their own intensely personal moral battles, dilemmas, and secrets as well as relationships issues, ranging from the merely annoying to the disturbingly violent. The choices these women confront are not simple and their decisions are not always easy to live with, making this book much more than lighthearted entertainment.

Cleverly plotted, rich in characterization, this World War II family drama is an enjoyable take on an already heavily treaded topic: the home front. What makes this book unique, in my opinion, is the plot’s interplay among the different social classes within the wartime setting. Forbidden Places’ plot is not as single-mindedly focused on the privileged upper classes as some of Vincenzi’s other books, and a touching undercurrent of sympathy for the difficulties that this stratified English society posed for individuals permeates the story, adding a great deal of depth and substance.

Readers will find themselves flying through the pages of this book, utterly captivated and being drawn toward a heart-thumping climax. Highly recommended for those who enjoy historical family dramas.