The Dark Side of the Sun
In 1928 Sybil Fox and her daughter Mary come to live at Harding Hall, where Sybil is hired as governess to the four Harding children. The daughter, Nettie, is 11 years old, the same age as Mary, and growing up together, they become close. While Mary is quiet and studious, Nettie is interested in men and wants to escape her overbearing father. Mary falls in love with Godfrey, the eldest Harding son, distant and dreamy. Sybil, missing nothing, thinks William, a younger son, is smitten with Mary. Sybil knows it is impossible, but she’d like to see Mary make a match in this wealthy family. It comes as quite a shock, then, when Sybil is no longer needed as governess and they must leave Harding Hall.
On the eve of the war Mary and Sybil are in London. Nettie is also in London, living with an elderly aunt. Her father doesn’t trust her, as he knows of an early indiscretion at fifteen. It is hopeless, but Mary still has feelings for Godfrey. Nettie, meanwhile, plots to get free of her aunt and become independent. She decides that the only way to do this is to get married!
We see London in the blitz, and relive the fearlessness of the ambulance drivers and firefighters as they try to save the lives of those trapped in and under the ruined buildings. The writer has painted a vivid picture of the hardship of daily life, rationing, difficulty of travel around the city, the daily fears and frustrations.
This book is about change – changes wrought by the war and its aftermath. From the important families in their big houses to the everyday people in their tiny flats and their ordinary jobs, nothing would ever be the same. The Harding family and Mary and Sybil (whose lives all continue to be intertwined) undergo many changes as the war changes the face of society.
There are many plot lines to tie together in this book, and the author does an excellent job of keeping it all on track. There is a major coincidence that occurs towards the end of the book, but the storyline is so compelling that it’s easily overlooked. It is fast paced, well plotted and with likeable characters. It is fascinating to read about this time, not so long ago in history, and about the sacrifices made by ordinary people: how difficult life was in England during the war, with the possibility of invasion ever present. For a short while the writer helped me to see it through the eyes of those living it at the time. She tells a good story.