Wickwythe Hall, an estate in England, is pivotal in this story of WWII. The narrative alternates among the viewpoints of three of the main characters: Mabry, Annelle, and Reid. Mabry is an American who married into the family who has owned Wickwythe Hall for generations. Annelle has grown up with her two brothers as orphans in a French nunnery. Reid is also American and an old love interest and friend of Mabry’s. The story begins with the German army breaking through the Maginot Line and endangering the nunnery where Annelle is a novice. The nuns refuse to leave, but Annelle joins hordes of other people fleeing and dying on the roads while escaping the Germans. Fate lands her on a boat crossing the channel. Upon landing in England, she meets Mabry, a volunteer feeding the British soldiers fleeing France. Mabry brings a distressed Annelle home to Wickwythe Hall. Reid is sent by President Roosevelt from the U.S. to England as a liaison to Churchill. Reid and Mabry meet after many years when he accompanies Churchill to Wickwythe Hall for a weekend of rest and respite.
The author has skillfully brought these three fictional characters together at Wickwythe Hall, and the story develops from there. The first chapters left me with the impression that this book would be a light romantic WWII read. But as I read on, it had substance with endearing characters and solemn subjects. It is based on the true events of WWII Operation Catapult, when Churchill made the decision to bomb the French naval fleet at Mers-el-Kébir to prevent their battle ships being handed over to Germany. Little’s characterization of Churchill is so well done. She makes his personality and presence so real. Mabry was a character to be admired for her decisions and actions. A good read with a satisfying ending.