Title: The Daughter of Victory Lights
Author: Kerri Turner
Published: January 20th 2020
Publisher: HQ Fiction – AU
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4.5 stars
An enthralling story of one woman’s determined grab for freedom after WW2 from a talented new Australian voice.
‘PART CABARET, PART BURLESQUE, AND LIKE NOTHING YOU’VE EVER SEEN BEFORE! GENTLEMEN, AND LADIES IF YOU’VE DARED TO COME, WELCOME TO …
1945: After the thrill and danger of volunteering in an all-female searchlight regiment protecting Londoners from German bombers overhead, Evelyn Bell is secretly dismayed to be sent back to her rigid domestic life when the war is over. But then she comes across a secret night-time show, hidden from the law on a boat in the middle of the Thames. Entranced by the risqué and lively performance, she grabs the opportunity to join the misfit crew and escape her dreary future.
At first the Victory travels from port to port to raucous applause, but as the shows get bigger and bigger, so too do the risks the performers are driven to take, as well as the growing emotional complications among the crew. Until one desperate night …
1963: Lucy, an unloved and unwanted little girl, is rescued by a mysterious stranger who says he knows her mother. On the Isle of Wight, Lucy is welcomed into an eclectic family of ex-performers. She is showered with kindness and love, but gradually it becomes clear that there are secrets they refuse to share. Who is Evelyn Bell?
‘All she could do was be there with her light, a beacon for people who needed it.’
Australian author Kerri Turner proves she is force to be reckoned within the historical fiction genre, with the release of her powerful second novel. The Daughter of Victory Lights is a rich and vibrant story, comprising of a double narrative. Kerri Turner’s latest charts the lives of an enterprising mother and her daughter, ten years later. A story of passion, love, friendship, family, loyalty aspiration, ambition, heroism, tragedy and recovery, The Daughter of Victory Lights is a bedazzling historical fiction title.
The Daughter of Victory Lights begins in the thick of the war, in the year 1945. Evelyn is a brave and adventurous young woman, who is determined to do her bit for her country. She has been accepted into the first all-female searchlight regiment. These troops play an essential role in protecting the nation’s capital from the deadly German bombers. It is a role that thrills and sends a sense of fulfilment through Evelyn’s veins. However, when the war comes to a close, Evelyn is required to resume her unexciting domestic life, under the oppressive regime of her sister Cynthia. Frustrated, Evelyn stumbles across a secret boat, which delivers daring shows to awaiting audiences. Evelyn decides she has had enough of her boring post war life, she abandons her family and joins the floating showboat. Evelyn is taken by the travelling life and she is soon swept up in the stardom of the dazzling performances on board the Victory. Until one fateful night, when everything changes on board the Victory. Years later, Evelyn’s daughter Lucy finally discovers her parentage. It is a surprise for the young girl, who has no idea who her mother and father are, as she was raised by her cruel Aunt. When Evelyn’s former colleagues from the Victory enter Lucy’s life, they support her as best they can. But Lucy wants to know the secret behind the final fate of the Victory and why her parents have not been an active presence in her life.
I warmly welcomed the opportunity to read the second book from Kerri Turner. The Daughter of Victory Lights represents another turn in the historical fiction field for Turner and it reveals this talented author’s ability to bring fragments of the war to life. I enjoyed every moment of The Daughter of Victory Lights, it was a true showpiece.
Evelyn is an amiable lead. I really enjoyed her journey, which was defined by a range of emotions from happiness, sadness, despair, love, confusion, ambition and heartbreak. Evelyn was also a pioneer, she bravely joined and gained a place in the first all-female searchlight regiment, a division I had no prior knowledge of before reading The Daughter of Victory Lights. I was impressed by Turner’s historical bedrock in this area of the narrative. It was exciting and informative. Evelyn’s experiences felt like an open letter to many women’s feelings during this time. They appreciated the opportunity to step up and take on valued roles in the war. However, post war, many of these brave females in service were required to return to their domestic based roles, which proved to be frustrating. I could feel Evelyn’s annoyance and itchy feet emanate from the pages of the novel, it was portrayed well by Turner.
In terms of the wider characterisation in this book, I appreciated the insertion of characters such as Alvin and Flynn, former soldiers, who also find themselves on the notorious Victory in search for something exciting. Flynn, who becomes embroiled with Evelyn, had an interesting war based position. Working with the Graves Registration Unit, Flynn saw his fair share of trauma and devastation, which made me pity him. On the Victory, the reader is introduced to a colourful cast and an eclectic world inhabited by the showboat leader Humphrey, Bee and many other performers. While Evelyn’s distasteful family also occupy the pages of this novel, providing a strong source of tension within the unfolding narrative. In part two, it is Lucy’s story. Evelyn’s daughter unravels a past and a set of secrets that eventually allude to the final fate of her background, parents and the Victory’s last outing.
The Daughter of Victory Lights is a rich historical exhibit. It traverses time and place. It opens in 1945 and it travels from London to Honolulu, to France and Portugal. It concludes in the year 1963, on the Isle of Wight, a locale that fascinates me. No matter the year or location, Tuner has her finger on the pulse. In The Daughter of Victory Lights, we are presented with a full and well supplied history that will keep the reader enthralled.
Set in two parts, I was able to divide my adoration between both narrative threads equally. I rejoiced in all aspects of this story, from the enigmatic characters, the war/post war focus, the enlightening showboat backdrop and the family mystery. Make sure you take the time to read through Turner’s Author’s Note, which is incredibly factual. I am left with no choice but to highly recommend The Daughter of Victory Lights to readers of historical fiction, especially those who have a special interest in war time fiction.
The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner was published on 20th January 2020 by HQ Fiction – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Daughter of Victory Lights, Kerri Turner, visit here.
*I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Daughter of Victory Lights is book #21 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge