The Last Telegram

Written by Liz Trenow
Review by Wisteria Leigh

In England in 1938, 18-year-old Lily Verner has exciting plans to travel to Switzerland. Then, upon returning home from Vienna, her brother tells her about the business restrictions placed upon Jews as well as the scenes of broken glass, the yellow stars, and the ridicule they faced. Most alarming were what he called pogroms. Lily’s father gives her an ultimatum: work in his mill, or take cooking classes. Geneva is out of the question at this time.

She accepts her father’s proposal and begins at the bottom to learn about the business. She is surprised to discover the wonders of silk and the intricacies involved in its weaving. As the war ramps up, a manufacturer of parachutes seeks out a company to develop the perfect silk chute. As time passes, Lily is put in charge. She is proud of Verner’s contribution to providing quality silk, knowing there is no room for error when it comes to a soldier’s life.

One day, she is pressured to meet an impossible deadline for delivery. She is short of material, and the only way to make up the difference is to release a batch of silk below tolerance. The decision she makes will have lifelong ramifications. Trenow skillfully includes readers in a way that they will feel like they’re present as Lily weighs her options. She is a sympathetic character who will gain readers’ support and understanding.

Liz Trenow has written a memorable and refreshing perspective of World War II through the eyes of civilians contributing to the war effort. Lily is strong and gutsy, and the terror of the air blitzes and nightly devastation provide a vivid sense of place. A remarkable story of inconsolable heartbreak, first love, and forgiveness, The Last Telegram will surely leave an indelible impression on all who read it.