Never Forget You

Written by Jamila Gavin
Review by Ann Lazim

This is a long, involving read about four young women who meet at boarding school in Sussex in the 1930s, that goes on to chronicle the courageous roles they take, as well as their friendships and emotional lives, as World War 2 progresses. The story is initially narrated by Gwen, born in India, and whose parents still live there in the colonial service, and her angle on events is repeatedly returned to. Where the stories of the protagonists diverge, the third person is used, so readers gain wider understanding of their situations and are privy to secrets they cannot divulge to each other, although they remain in contact when and where they can. As Gwen notes: ‘despite all our laughter and wisecracking, it was as though there were glass walls between us. We were affectionately together yet strangely apart.’

Noor is the only character based on that of a real-life individual, Noor Inayat Khan, born in Russia of Indian parentage, who struggles with her conscience as a pacifist when she becomes a British resistance agent in France. In a brief afterword Jamila Gavin acknowledges that her life was the inspiration for this novel.

Vera is a Jewish refugee from Poland with family and friends in Paris. Since the disappearance of her parents and little brother, she has been living with her aunt and uncle who believe that they are safe from the persecution of Jews due to her uncle’s long French residency and Catholic conversion. The quartet is completed by budding actress Dodo whose parents are Nazi sympathisers, putting her in the invidious position of working out where her loyalties lie. Not all of the four will survive the war.

A YA novel encompassing great storytelling, characters that the reader cares about, and unobtrusive attention to period detail.