Released: June 2014
The frame for Time to Say Goodbye is in 1959 when a group of childhood friends are scheduled to meet in a small village for a reunion. The narrative then travels back to 1939 when Imogen, Debby and Rita first meet. The girls missed the first set of evacuations and most of the approved homes are now full so they are quite relieved when Auntie offers to take them all in. The authorities are not quite so happy because it means the girls will be living in a public house but there is simply nowhere else for them to go.
The girls enjoy their life in the Canary and Linnet pub with Auntie and her niece Jill. Although they have left the dangers of city life behind them they are not immune to the realities of war being situated near an airbase. They enjoy the freedoms the countryside has to offer them and the new experiences of working on farms and meeting new people.
The story is narrated from an omnipresent perspective but it is not focalised and jumps from one perspective to another. This really disrupts the narrative of the book, which is quite long, and that’s a shame because it could quite easily have been an enjoyable and relaxing read.
Most of the characters in this are easily identifiable and likeable with the exception of one. Unfortunately when the narrative shifted to her point of view I found myself losing interest because she was too polarised and self-absorbed to create any sense of empathy. The other characters, even some of the minor ones, were far easier to read about as they were better developed.
Towards the end I had the feeling that it was beginning to look like a story that was quickly going nowhere. Then the narrative focus suddenly shifted back to 1959 and the reason for the reunion became apparent. The ending did tie up all the loose ends neatly but unfortunately by then I found I’d lost patience and couldn’t wait to get finished because the story had just spent too much time meandering.
I enjoyed the setting of the pub, the characters, and all the happenings of a small community during the war, but I just wanted the story to go somewhere in its own right and, having been set where and when it was, it should have been able to do exactly that. I’m sure that older readers or those with an interest in World War II literature will particularly enjoy the realistic and, according to my mum at least, very accurate details of day to day life during the war in that section of the narrative.