Shelter From the Storm
This final instalment of Jennie Walters’ Swallowcliffe Hall trilogy tells the story of Isobel, the daughter of Grace from the second book, and granddaughter of Polly, who worked at the Hall as a maid in the late 19th century.
It is 1939, the eve of World War II, and Polly, now old and frail, is still employed at the Hall. Fifteen-year-old Isobel is sent to stay with her while recovering from tuberculosis. She rapidly regains her strength and begins helping her grandmother with her work, during the course of which she becomes involved with the family at the hall, the servants, and the people in the village – among them a German Jewish boy, Andreas, to whom she becomes attracted. Andreas has been sent to England for safety, but his mother and cousin are still in Germany. With the increasing danger of war comes the realisation that many Jews will be trapped in Europe if they are unable to leave soon. Although she faces opposition in the village, Isobel feels compelled to speak out for work to be offered to refugees so that they are able to come to Britain.
Meanwhile, she begins to uncover long-buried secrets: both her mother’s, and a secret involving her grandmother which began in the first book and which is now resolved in a moving and satisfying way.
Relationships are handled sensitively, and there are no falsely happy endings, either on a personal or wider scale. Jennie Walters’ research is excellent, and she brings the period to life with just the right details, creating an enjoyable and true-to-life story.
Although the three Swallowcliffe Hall books can each stand alone, a thread of mystery runs through them, and ideally they should be read in the right order.