The Last Night in London by Karen White

‘Just because a person is lost doesn’t mean they want to be found.’

The story unfolds over two timelines in London: 1939 and 2019. In 1939, Ethel Maltby (who reinvents herself as Eva Harlow) and her American friend Jeanne (‘all my friends call me Precious’) Dubose are working as models for Madame Lushtak. Two beautiful young women whose lives are turned upside down during the Blitz. In 2019, American journalist Madison (‘Maddie’) Warner travels to London. She is writing an article about Jeanne Dubose, to accompany a museum exhibition of fashion and clothing during the war years and expects to be in London for a couple of weeks. While they have never met, Maddie is a distant relative of Jeanne. Jeanne is now 99 years old and in frail health.

‘What is it about all of our pasts that we’re so unwilling to confront?’

Maddie and Jeanne become close, and Maddie becomes intrigued by Jeanne’s past. Jeanne lost contact with Eva during the war. Is Eva still alive? Can Maddie find her?

I particularly enjoyed the parts of the novel set during the war. The mystery around Eva (and why she changed her name and the consequences) held my attention as did the descriptions of the Blitz. There is a twist (which, while I worked it out, fits well) and a few secrets. But for Jeanne, now, still immaculately presented the time for keeping secrets is passing. While I enjoyed reading about Maddie’s detective work, I found Maddie herself a frustrating character at times.

Part war story, part love story, and part story of survival. A story full of intrigue and secrets. An enjoyable read.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Australia for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith