The Blue Hour by M J Greenwood – Tilly remembers a wartime love, and Ava tries to discover her future

The Blue Hour by M J Greenwood

Two women, two romances in scenic Cornwall. They are separated by time- Tilly’s great love is in the war time past, with Jack, an American aerial photographer with the Air Force. Ava has just exited one relationship which ended badly, and is unsure whether she wants another. They come together because the eighty nine year old needs a carer in order to be allowed home from a nursing home where she has made herself the centre of attention. Ava’s break up has coincided with her being made redundant, and she desperately needs a job with accommodation. Tilly is an outrageous elderly lady, smoking heavily and drinking copiously unless prevented, but still determined to live exactly as she wants. Ava is very nearly broken by everything when she arrives, but becomes determined to make Tilly’s life at home possible and as enjoyable as it can be.

Set in a seaside village with its immense popularity among tourists, this book is a powerfully written story of life in 2015, set alongside chapters dealing with the young Tilly’s life in 1943 and 1944, when she meets Jack. Letters to Jack from his family and fiancé Jess in West Virginia speak of a life there, and his diary entries give a flavour of the pressure of his life in Britain, as he flies missions and takes the tablets to help him sleep and function. Tilly’s life in 2015 is full of the medicines that keep her going, but also of her flirting with any male, and her statements designed to shock. Ava is moved by her fragile state, annoyed by her rudeness, but also inspired by her attitude to life and the need to make the most of her time. This is a novel of two women divided by age but brought together by circumstance and the need to live. It is Jack’s story to an extent, captured in his photographs of a beautiful and vibrant Tilly, and fondly remembered in the harsh reality of a time when her daughter is desperate to regulate and if possible, quieten her mother. Ava’s discovery of a new way of life, her rescue in all senses, propel her to new sensations which are faithfully and honestly recorded in this well written book.

I enjoyed the appreciation that many of the characters have for the place in which they live. A beautiful place for its beaches and views, it also suffers the over attentions of tourists and the amazing house prices which exclude locals and makes Tilly’s house astonishingly valuable. Ava is an honest character, rocked to her core by her husband’s infidelity and her best friend’s betrayal, she soon begins to recover her spirits despite her workload in caring for Tilly. Tilly is an amazing character, always wanting to shock, living with her past love and her continuing desire for physical relationships. She inspires lots of people to diet, and women to make the best of themselves. She is fragile in body but has a spirit which demands attention. Her long ago love affair is the inspiration for her life, both then when she made life changing decisions and now as she seeks out the memories.

This is a novel with some excellent characters, with small incidences that ring true in contemporary life, a lot of humourous dialogue and at its heart well told stories. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this enjoyable book, and I recommend it as a novel which neatly combines historical fiction with contemporary observation, and the amazing character of Tilly.