1943, England: On a foggy night during the blackout, twenty-five-year-old May Robinson’s mother is tragically killed. Heartbroken, May isn’t sure she has the strength to harbour the secret she has kept for so many years – a secret her mother devoted her life to hiding, that would tear their broken family even further apart.
Vowing to make her mother proud, May trains to be a nurse at Edgemoor General hospital in South Shields, against a backdrop of wailing air-raid sirens and the eternal drone of enemy planes. Tending to wounded, ashen-faced soldiers, fighting to save lives, May is immediately drawn to kind-hearted Richard Bentley, who works tirelessly alongside her. He has sparkling brown eyes, and makes her laugh.
In the darkest of days, amongst death and despair, May and Richard are beacons of hope for one another. But why isn’t he fighting in the war like thousands of other brave young men?
May knows how she longs to escape her own past, and her mother’s. In this perilous time of such uncertainty, she finds herself asking – how well do they really know each other? And when the shocking truth of May’s secret comes to light, just as the war comes too close to home, can their love survive the impossible?
I read, reviewed and loved Shirley’s debut novel ‘The Orphan Sisters’ even if it did leave me an emotional wreck. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of her new book ‘Our Last Goodbye’. I finally got my hands on a copy and I couldn’t wait to start reading. I dived straight in and oh boy, I have to say that ‘Our Last Goodbye’ was one seriously awesome read. I absolutely loved it but more about that in a bit.
I couldn’t help but take to May from the start and there were a few times when I wanted to jump inside the pages of the book to give her a hug and some support. Bless her little cotton socks, she certainly hasn’t had an easy time of it. Her mother is killed in front of her in an accident with a bus. May is still grieving deeply and she feels a lot of guilt that she wasn’t able to save her mother. May’s mother seems to have been the glue that held the family together. May has a ‘brother’ who has been evacuated to the countryside for his own safety. May’s father is still around but to be perfectly honest, he doesn’t deserve to be called a father. He has behaved appallingly since May’s mother died and he certainly hasn’t been caring for his family. Her father heartlessly throws her out of the family home after he rents it out to somebody else. There is other stuff too but I don’t want to give too much away as I would hate to spoil the book for anybody. May has a dream of becoming a nurse and after a couple of hiccups, she begins her training at the hospital in South Shields. I was pleased for her that she managed to realise her dream as in my opinion she is an ideal candidate. May is kind, compassionate, caring and sympathetic. May is also a hard working individual. She’s certainly the sort of nurse that I would want to look after me should I be in hospital.
Oh my word, this book appealed to me on so many levels. I am a huge fan and addict of historical fiction. In particular I absolutely love saga type stories that are set during either the First World War or the Second World War. My obsession with both wars stems from the fact that I didn’t know my grandparents and so by learning about living and social conditions at that time, I somehow feel closer to them as I have a better understanding of what they went through. That might sound silly to some but it makes sense to me.
I absolutely loved the setting of the story in South Shields, which is a place I have a deep fondness for. Again this stems from my own family history research. I have so many family members that were born in South Shields that I lose count. My late father also used to go on his family holiday to South Shields when he was a bairn. Again, I felt closer to long lost family members. I also love the fact that a book has been set in the North East of England, which is where I live. Even better, I have been to South Shields numerous times and it’s lovely to read a book where you can go ‘eee I know where that is’ or ‘I have been down that street’.
Oh my giddy aunt, I soon became addicted to this book. In fact by the time I got to the end of the first chapter, I knew that this book would be unputdownable. I took to May so much that I had to keep reading to see what happened to her and to see if she got the happy ever after ending that she so deserved. The more of the book I read, the more I wanted to read and the quicker the pages seemed to be turning. I felt as though I was with May every step of the way and going through every experience that she was going through. My connection with May was so strong that I noticed neither the speed with which the time was passing and the pages were turning. I was most disappointed to get to the end of the book. I was enjoying the author’s writing style, the storylines, the characters and the named places so much that I just wanted the book to continue.
‘Our Last Goodbye’ is exceedingly well written. Shirley has written a story that will tug on even the toughest of heartstrings. Well it certainly tugged on my heartstrings and I am not usually that affected by the books that I read. Shirley has a writing style that draws you in and she dangles enough bait in front of you to keep you interested all the way through the book. She writes about difficult subjects with great compassion and sensitivity. Shirley has created a cast of characters that seem to spring to life and jump off the page as it were. I ended up believing that the characters were just as real as you or I.
In short, I loved reading ‘Our Last Goodbye’ even if it did take me on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster ride. On more than one occasion, my eyes welled up and I definitely needed a box of tissues on hand whilst reading the book. I definitely recommend that you read Shirley’s books. I can’t wait to read what she comes up with next. Here’s hoping that we don’t have too long to wait. The score on the Ginger Book Geek board is a very well deserved 5* out of 5*.