Once again, Cleave's writing is gorgeous and moving. Historical fiction can be fickle and tricky, but Cleave effortlessly transports you to another time and makes his version new. His WWII story takes place in London and Malta; I can already see this one becoming a movie.
I have read all of his other books and savoured each one because of his beautiful writing. There is a tenderness to the way he develops his characters with his moving prose, they are deep and complex, much like the setting. We have Mary, who is barely nineteen, and comes from a wealthy family. She uses the war to rebel against her parents, romanticized by possibility and not seeing war for what it is. She is assigned to a school to teach children and meets Tom Shaw, who is the head administrator. The two embark on a romantic relationship that becomes complicated when she is introduced to Tom's flatmate, Alistair Heath, an art conservator that gets deployed to active duty in Malta. Rounding out the cast is Hilda, Mary's inferior friend and ambulance partner.
The only negative was the pace, which moved between slow and steady. This was probably deliberate on Cleave's part to let the story unfold, to immerse the reader in WWII, and to develop the characters. Stay with it, you will be glad you did.