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Publisher's Summary

The author of A Fall of Marigolds journeys from the present day to World War II England, as two sisters are separated by the chaos of wartime.

She stood at a crossroads, half-aware that her choice would send her down a path from which there could be no turning back. But instead of two choices, she saw only one—because it was all she really wanted to see

Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets about the war that she has kept for decades...beginning with who she really is. What Kendra receives from Isabel is both a gift and a burden--one that will test her convictions and her heart.

1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, hundreds of thousands of children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old, Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister, Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage. Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed.

©2015 eChristian (P)2015 eChristian

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5.0
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Rare 5-Star Across the Board!

If you could sum up Secrets of a Charmed Life in three words, what would they be?

Enchanting, Intriguing, Powerful

Who was your favorite character and why?

The two sisters, Emmy and Julia - both superbly drawn.

Which character – as performed by Alana Kerr – was your favorite?

It's mainly a narrative spoken by Emmeline, and Alana's interpretation was lovely.

Who was the most memorable character of Secrets of a Charmed Life and why?

It was a story about two sisters, Julia and Emmeline, who were separated at the beginning of the Blitz on London. Both of these characters were equally memorable.

Any additional comments?

I truly enjoy historical novels -- stories set in the past-- but this was more than that. Ms. Meissner's tale of what innocent civilian's of London endured during Hitler's assault on the city and the surrounding area, was the most emotionally evocative telling of this bit of history that I have ever read. The intimate details, sometimes grotesque and sometimes touchingly beautiful, provided a perspective on this brief period that I had never considered. But most significant was her insight into the human experience, the weaknesses and strengths of the human mind and heart. Almost immediately, I felt like I knew Emmeline - her free spirit and rebellion against her mother's authority mixed believably with her love and protectiveness towards her little sister, Julia. The relationship of these two half-sisters is timeless. Every twist and turn of their young lives as they faced and triumphed over the horrors of loss and destruction all around, kept me longing to know where their choices would lead them next. <br/><br/>When reading for enjoyment, I tend to want everything to fall into place, not predictably, but neatly with a happily ever after tone. This is not what I found in Secrets of a Charmed Life. I found much more. An intriguingly complex tale with events as varied and unsettling as life itself. And, as is often the case in life, Ms. Meissner reminds us that troubled times do not preclude rich and precious rewards.

40 of 42 people found this review helpful

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My favorite book of the year

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. It is a wonderful story about two sisters who become separated in the London Blitz (1940) at the start of WWII. Well written. It will bring tears to your eyes. Good from the beginning to the end.

25 of 26 people found this review helpful

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Loved this book!

This was a different twist to the WWII genre of books. The story of the children evacuated to the country the the devastation to the families as a result of the bombing of London was eye opening.

The characters were compelling and the story was beautifully woven with loss, despair, love and hope. The narration was superb! Well done!

22 of 23 people found this review helpful

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Great read!!

Awesome. I cried at the end. Really great story full of remarkable characters. I will definitely look for more from this author.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

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Good, but could have been much better

Any additional comments?

If possible, I would give "Secrets of a Charmed Life" 3.5 stars. I enjoyed the first 2/3rds of the story much more than the last part, where the narrative is told through a series of letters. The plot lost a lot of its punch for me at that point. I would have liked more history and detail about the blitz, etc. Also, the similes were a little over-wrought and the writing often became overly-sentimental (especially toward the end). Negatives aside, I would still say it's worth a read/listen - just don't expect The Nightingale. As for the narrator, her voice and emotion were good. As others have noted, though, she had an annoying and confusing way of pausing at commas so long that they seemed full-stops, and then she'd add in the final clause of the sentence after a few long beats. That habit definitely detracted from the book and made we wonder where the sound editor was.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Amazing novel

I loved this story. I listened to it from Atlanta to Dallas and I was rushing et every break so I could press play again. The protagonist is so endearing. You root for her and wish you could comfort her through the rough spots. This is one you don't forget.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • A.
  • Merritt Island, FL, United States
  • 10-17-15

Didn't put it down until I finished it

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. At first I thought it might not be my cup of tea; however I remained steadfast and it was worth it. Great story and fine mystery. I saw another side of the lives of the kids who were evacuated to the English countryside during the war. It wasn't always a beautiful life. As for the war, total devastation, nothing new there.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Captivating the whole way through

Susan Meissner is a gifted storyteller and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters are well developed and the message is clear. I can't wait to read more of her books.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Heart Wrenching

If you could sum up Secrets of a Charmed Life in three words, what would they be?

Fate vs. Providence

What other book might you compare Secrets of a Charmed Life to and why?

The Secret Life of Bees because it is also historical fiction and documents a young girl's emotional journey in dealing with her perceived guilt over her mother's death and how she found a safe place in Miss August's home and family.

Which character – as performed by Alana Kerr – was your favorite?

Juliana. She was so different from Isabel and was a pleasant surprise later in the book.

If you could take any character from Secrets of a Charmed Life out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Isabel. Because she was two people in one. I think that her journey to make peace with her two identities and the impact this had on her loved ones was a message of hope and tolerance for the healing process that many cultures do not embrace. It is an individual journey as was clearly exemplified by both sisters. No one can do this for you.

Any additional comments?

I enjoy Alana Kerr's narration which is what led me to this book. Plus I learned something new about the war along with the author regarding the foster program for London's children. I think the author kept the backdrop simple while creating a complex web of emotions and people which is a fair balance. Some author's of historical fiction tend to overwhelm readers with what they know. I'm sure the temptation was there but overall, a good read.

22 of 25 people found this review helpful

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  • Maria
  • Oscoda, MI, United States
  • 10-06-15

TERRIFIC BOOK!

I listened to it straight through, and could not put it down. I absolutely loved it. Highly recommend, and will look for other books by this author. This novel got me through some grueling hours of painting, for which I am thankful. It was beautifully written, and I love all of the plot twists and turns. It was heartwrenching, but had a great ending.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • angela
  • 03-22-17

Beyond charming!

I've been living in London for over a year now, I'm ashamed to say I didn't really know or understand the extent to which the 2nd world war affected this city. ofcourse you learn about it in museums but reading this book has made me feel the pain and anxiety almost like I was there. I loved the character of Charlotte, she reflects the good in humans, giving it all without expecting anything back. I thoroughly enjoyed this audio book, I'm inspired by the message it portrays and completely taken by the story that wraps so delicately around it.

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  • B. Mote
  • 10-21-15

Outstanding!

If you could sum up Secrets of a Charmed Life in three words, what would they be?

Emotional believable warstory

Who was your favorite character and why?

Charlotte - I think she was a saviour in the turbulent life

What about Alana Kerr’s performance did you like?

Oh - I could listen to her all day long - her voice is soft and kind and warm!

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

yes YES yes!

Any additional comments?

It is the first book since "The Goldfinch" I have truly enjoyed - I loved the writing, the story and the narrator ... more please!

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  • Juan Carlos Torres
  • 02-17-16

Incessant me blame and self deprecation story!

someone made a mistake for being your regular English self involved person and then comes hours of sulking!!!

just get over it Julia and Em...