The Last Night in London
White’s Southern novels are beloved bestsellers, and in this historical outing, she introduces a refugee from the close-knit Walton, Georgia community she created in her popular Falling Home family saga. Maddie Warner has returned to visit college chums in modern-day England, and to interview a distant relative, Precious Dubose, a world-famous model nearing the end of her long life. In the process of preparing a museum exhibit of World War II fashions, she uncovers family secrets that Precious is reluctant to revisit. She must also deal with her feelings for Colin St. John, a man Maddie rejected in college but has an undeniable attraction to.
White creates a warm, intimate atmosphere in which Maddie can come to terms with her own past fears and losses, as she, Precious, Colin, and his good-humored extended family sort through Precious’s memories of the Blitz and the love affairs conducted in its shadow. The parallel narrative set in 1940 London, in which Precious’s dearest friend and fellow fashion model, Eva Harlow, struggles to create a new identity for herself, is compelling in spite of Eva’s frustrating lack of self-awareness or moral compass. Much more interesting is the way Maddie is able to piece together a portrait of Eva’s life from the contents of a velvet purse, a hat, a fur stole. Fans of fashion in literature will be enchanted with such details.
The reader guesses the secret Maddie carefully unravels long before its reveal, but White’s obvious love for the city of London makes this a cozy and rewarding read. We’re left wanting to spend more time with Maddie’s Southern and English circles of friends and family.