The Excitements

Written by Cj Wray
Review by Kate Braithwaite

The Williamson sisters are in their nineties. Both World War II veterans, they spend their days being entertained by their kind nephew Archie, and attending commemorative events and having afternoon tea, or cocktails, in London’s department stores and restaurants. When they’re invited to Paris to receive the Legion d’honneur, naturally Archie accompanies them. He’s hoping to reconnect with an old flame, and is blissfully unaware that Penny and Josephine have their own very complicated history with Paris.

The timeline moves from the present day back into the sisters’ lives before, during and after World War II, with Penny’s story taking center stage. She trains for covert spying operations within occupied France, but it’s the women’s time in Paris before the war that lies behind much of how their lives play out, even in the present-day storyline. Penny is the stand-out character. From the early pages when she steals a crystal elephant in a department store, it’s clear she has her own way of doing things, and as her history is revealed, she becomes a character to root for, trying to settle old scores by carrying out an audacious heist. When all goes awry and the sisters are caught in the middle of a political siege and held at gunpoint, it’s easy to believe her when she notes that the gunman has ‘picked on the wrong old lady.’

With well-rounded secondary characters and a twisty plot, The Excitements certainly entertains. There may be one twist too many in Penny’s background, but overall, this is a very fun read with some laugh-out-loud moments.