Our Last Goodbye

Written by Shirley Dickson
Review by Valerie Adolph

Set in northern England during the Second World War, this novel explores the many aspects of loss that come to the forefront during a time of large-scale conflict. The novel opens with the death of May Robinson’s mother, hit by a trolley bus whose driver’s ability to see ahead was limited by fog and the blackout. A victim of war? Possibly, but worse is to come. May’s family and friends are beset by violent death by sea, by air and by land combat. May herself becomes a student nurse and, after two spectacularly bad choices of boyfriends, she falls in love with a conscientious objector – a man whose principles were at that time seen as completely objectionable. Pregnant with his child, she feels deserted when he leaves abruptly to join the medical corps. Later, he is reported missing after landing at Dunkirk and she believes him to be dead.

Throughout the novel runs the thread of support of friends and sometimes of strangers who lighten the load of grief. Grief is ever present, arriving often unexpectedly.

May Robinson is forced to find the physical, emotional, and mental strength she thought she lacked as she faces the demands of nursing and of a boyfriend who is considered a coward.

The novel is realistic about the wartime era with well-researched, accurate detail. The author is able to portray the deeply felt and often raw emotions of the time. The protagonist is relatable, and supporting characters are carefully drawn. Throughout the novel death and despair are always close by, but May, like most of us in difficult moments, finds strength in her family and her friends.