War and its after effects are not something we like to think about. Lives are lost, husbands, wives, mothers, sisters, brothers, uncles, fathers leaving families bereft and facing deprivation. Hearts are broken, and many struggle to find their way ahead. Perhaps among the many affected, we don’t give enough thought to those who are left behind, those whose lives are shattered, those who never recover.
In this story, The Shut-Away Sisters, the author tries to capture the loss and the very lives that survivors led. They were certainly not the ones that were planed, but the lives and choices they were given. Both Florrie, a girl of fifteen, and her sister Edith, were impacted by the war’s aftermath. Florrie was left the responsibility of her family, since she lost her beloved mother to the Spanish flu. Edith, went through her young life convinced that her Frank was coming home to her. She was besotted and traveled, over the years down the road to solitude and writing poetry, never really venturing into the world, more or less living in seclusion. Florrie willingly gave up her life for she was the daughter who recognized responsibility and the care that her family needed and ultimately required. Florrie was a selfless individual; one whose duty was to family always and forever.
The book introduces us to Kate, a great niece of Florrie and Edith’s. In her time frame, it is 1999, and she has just discovered her boyfriend, Dave, has been philandering, and realizes that she needs to get away from him and the flat she shared with him. Her father comes to her rescue as he is inheriting the house the sisters lived in and sends Kate for both solace and to get things in order. Kate finds many things that interest her and meets a man who is able to help her categorize the old items held within the house. As Kate gets deeper into the contents of the house and its belongings, her curiosity is peeked and she wants to know more about those reclusive aunts and their lives.
The story flips back and forth between 1999 and the beginning of World War 1, 1915. It is the one part of the book that is a tad disjointed. The rest of the book builds upon the admiration that the reader develops for Florrie and Kate. They were strong women who did what they had to even though it wasn’t always in their best interests. The story was interesting particularly in the beginning as there was more action that piqued one’s interest as to why the sisters remained as detached from the world as they did. This was a fine World War 1 story that made one think that the repercussions of war go on long after the last bullet is fired, the last cannon exploded, and the last person gives up their life in the cause of freedom.
Thank you to Suzanne Goldring, Bookouture, and NetGalley for a copy of the book due out June 29, 2021.