All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

A Stranger In My Street – Deborah Burrows

on May 19, 2013

A StrangerA Stranger In My Street
Deborah Burrows
Pan MacMillan AUS
2012, 337p
Read from my local library

It is 1943, the Second World War is still in full swing. In Perth Australia, US troops have landed and are making life just a little bit more bearable for the local young women. The men are generous, always bringing things such as food like meat and fresh fruit and vegetables and little gifts to express their thanks for the hospitality whenever they are invited anywhere. They have access to far more in the way of rationed items and are far better paid than their Australian counterparts. They are also friendly and happy, always willing to take a girl out for a meal, or dancing, often with little in the way of return. Many are just seeking some company, a night of fun to forget the horrors they’ve seen and been a part of. And many young women are very happy to be that distraction.

Meg Eaton isn’t one of them. This war has brought upon her nothing but pain, first stealing the man she loved away from her and then keeping him when he was killed in action 18 months ago. Since then Meg has done very little, just gone to work and come home again. On a hot Perth summer’s day, she meets her former fiancé’s brother Tom, who is looking for a woman who lives in Meg’s street – a married woman who, with her husband away in the war, has taken to hanging out with the American officers. Meg is disconcerted to finally meet Tom, the man Peter admired so much and it’s not long until she sees him again – when the two of them find the dead body of Doreen Luca, the woman Tom was looking for.

The immediate suspect is her jealous husband, home on leave but Meg, who knows Frank and Tom, who definitely knows more than he’s letting on, aren’t so sure. Despite Meg’s grief and Tom’s engagement to a chilly society type, they find themselves spending more and more time together. It is a way for them to talk about Peter as well as try and figure out exactly what is happening in their neighbourhood. When a young boy from their street goes missing, Meg is even more desperate for answers – anything to distract her from her growing feelings for the very taken but also very troubled, Tom Lagrange.

I saw a lot of reviews for this book last year – lots of bloggers I follow and admire and trust had glowing reviews and really enjoyed it and so it was kind of hovering around at the back of my mind, always on my radar without me ever really going out of my way to hunt it down. The other day I went to pick up a book at my local library – they have a ‘recently returned’ shelf which often has some great books sitting on it and I always browse there just before I pick up my holds. This book was the first one I saw on that shelf the other day so I immediately snatched it up.

I have to admit, when I read novels set during the war, they’re rarely ever set here. I’ve read quite a few books set around WW2 and just about all of them have taken place in Europe. It was refreshing to read something set close to home and get an idea of what life was like for Australians while the war was going on. Perth wasn’t entirely removed from the action and the arrival of the American troops helped greatly, which is only partially why they were so well received. The Americans are fun and lively and do a lot to bolster community spirits although it does send up a bit of a friendly rivalry (or perhaps not-so-friendly) with the local boys who perhaps can’t shower as many luxuries! I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, story wise but this novel was a tightly written mystery sprinkled with a believable war time feel and a forbidden romance.

I felt for Meg, she had found such a lovely happiness and then had it snatched away from her by a conflict on the other side of the world. Despite the fact that the war has taken from her, she retains her compassion and the ability to see people as who they are, not where they are from. When Doreen Luca is found murdered, many locals suspect her husband Frank, an Australian born Italian. Italians faced prejudice and even incarceration in Australia during WW2 as “aliens”. However, Meg never suspects Frank, knowing him to be more than just his stereotypical background.

I really liked the way in which things developed between Tom and Meg – Tom is her dead fiancé’s brother and at first he’s just a person she can reminisce about Peter with. The two of them are thrown together after discovering the body of Doreen but they seem to find solace in each other’s company. Tom has demons that Meg doesn’t even know about, having been captured by the Japanese and tortured horrifically. He’s employed as a liaison officer between the Australian forces and the Americans and definitely knows more than he is letting on. He and Meg meet often for lunch (which causes gossip, not least because Tom is engaged). There’s also a noted class difference between the two, which Meg has already faced when she briefly met Peter’s parents when they were dating. They’re wealthy whereas Meg is definitely lower middle class, living with her mother and her sister, the three of them pooling their resources to get by. They’re not starving, but there’s definitely very little money for luxuries. Apart from spending time with Meg himself, Tom convinces her to begin to live again, to go out and have fun and Meg begins to accept dates with some of the American soldiers and learn that life does indeed, go on. However she soon finds that the one man that really interests her seems to be the one that she can’t have.

This was a very enjoyable book – I just wanted to keep reading all day until I was finished. I know that the author has another book out and now I’m very keen to read that too. It’s going on my list.

8/10

Book #130 of 2013

AWW2013

A Stranger In My Street counts towards my participation in the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013. It’s book #55 read and reviewed so far.

 

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3 responses to “A Stranger In My Street – Deborah Burrows

  1. Marg says:

    I am so glad you read and liked this one! I really enjoyed it when I read it last year too!

  2. […] All the Books I Can Read read A Stranger in My Street which was Deborah Burrows debut novel and was impressed […]

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