Popular British novelist Lesley Pearse is back with her 24th novel, a historical saga set in a time period spanning eight years, from 1935 in Dead to Me. Dead to Me opens with the momentous meeting of two teenage girls from opposite sides of the tracks, who have more in common than they first realise. When Verity, a young girl from a modest background, meets Ruby, a girl of similar age living in the slums with her prostitute Mother, it sets off a chain reaction of events that the two girls will share. It isn’t long before Ruby and Verity form a close bond, but when Ruby gets into trouble, an emotional outburst leads her to write a note to her friend, declaring she is “dead to me”. The two girls become estranged and the story follows their lives as they battle against war, family troubles and adversity.
I read my first Lesley Pearse novel many years ago and after a break, I have found myself drawn to her more recent novels. I do love a good wartime saga and Lesley Pearse certainly does not fail to deliver in this genre. I have to be honest and say this book didn’t immediately grab me for some reason but perseverance payed off and I was rewarded with a very good read. Once I connected to Dead to Me, I found it a page turner and the 500 pages literally flew by. Dead to Me has some great plot twists, an excellent dollop of romance and a timeless setting. It is always very obvious that Pearse has conducted her historical research, she manages to convey the atmosphere as well as the uneasiness of pre war and wartime Britain. Pearse also contrasts her setting with country and city Britain at war, which I found compelling. The addition of American soldiers to Britain’s shores is covered within the plot of Dead to Me, which I found add further character to the novel. In reference to characters, Pearse always builds her main heroines well. Ruby and Verity are likeable young woman, with great back stories to keep the reader engaged. Secondary characters such as Wilby and Miller add a heart-warming appeal to the novel. Pearse also adds a sense of intrigue to her novel, with the inclusion of a well cast villain, who stoops very low in the actions he undertakes throughout the progression to Dead to Me. The ending was a nice reminder of the true value of friendship and the strength of the human spirit.
Established fans and newcomers to the writing of Lesley Pearse will be sure to lap up her latest novel, Dead to Me. It is an engrossing historical saga, exploring themes of friendship, family, trust, love, hope, war and triumph over adversity. A recommended read.
Dead to Me was published in 2016 by Penguin Australia