The Way to London
September 1941: 21-year-old Lucy Stanhope is living in luxury with her English parents in Singapore. After breaking a social norm, she is sent to stay with an aunt in Cornwall and, while on the ship home, Lucy meets the cavalier Corporal McKeegan. In Cornwall, she continues to lead an active social life and befriends Bill, a 12-year-old evacuee from London. Lucy’s aspirations of living in Paris are shattered when she learns of the presumed death of her parents following the Japanese invasion.
A family friend, a Hollywood movie producer, then arrives in London. Dreaming of stardom, Lucy plans to meet him, so she and Bill, who badly wants to find his lost mother in the city, steal away on a secret train journey. While walking around bombed railway lines, the weary fugitives, still miles from London, arrive in Charbury in Somerset, amazingly just on McKeegan’s doorstep. Having some ulterior motives, McKeegan offers to drive them to their destination. The travelers face numerous personal and external difficulties along their way, each wondering if they will achieve their hearts’ desires.
Alix Rickloff has penned an entertaining novel. Lucy’s life in Singapore and the hardships she faces in wartime England are well presented. The period details and dialogue, contrasting the lives of ordinary civilians, soldiers, and upper-class elites, are dramatized in exciting scenes. These, along with snippets of historical events and descriptions of the surroundings, place us alongside Lucy and her friends and foes on their journey. Although the plot abounds with coincidences, where characters meet at the right times and right venues, Rickloff keeps our attention by having Lucy face an increasing number of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. While the novel is light on details of the war itself, Lucy’s and other characters’ resolve to endure adversity with humor and diligently pursue their objectives, makes this work an appealing one. Recommended.