Painting the War in Eleanor’s Secret || BOOK REVIEW

Eleanor’s Secret by Caroline Beecham


Genre: Historical Fiction
Author: Caroline Beecham
Published: April 2018
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pages: 434 {paperback}

Review on Goodreads

Thanks to Allen & Unwin for sending me a copy of this in exchange for an honest review!

Initial Thoughts Upon Finishing

This was certainly an interesting read. It didn’t turn out to be what I expected from it and it was very slow-going at the start. I still enjoyed it, however, and thought it was really beautifully written! But the whole story is definitely more of a family saga than the nitty gritty historical fiction I was hoping for.

Eleanor’s Secret

So! This book is historical fiction set around World War II in Britain. It follows the characters of Eleanor, both past and present – so the chapters are split between the now and then. The story begins with her recruiting in her granddaughter from Australia (a mostly irrelevant aspect to the story) in the hopes that she can help her find a man she used to know.

In the past, Eleanor was involved with the war artists. This is a topic I’ve not come across before and it was really interesting. These were the artists tasked with recording the war through their artwork – half for the sake of recording history and half for making sure the world didn’t lose a generation of artists thanks to their general lack of priority in the career ladder during a war.

It’s a story predominantly about family with a small, if predictable, plot twist. There’s a nice splash of history that comes with it’s setting but if you’re looking for something similar to The Nightingale or All the Light We Cannot See – or perhaps even The Book Thief – it’s not quite like that. This reads very much so more like chick lit (and in the odd chance you’ve read it, more like a book called Poppy Day).

What I Liked

I loved learning about the war artists and the historical setting and aspects of the book were gorgeous. It was a refreshingly new angle to an otherwise standard war story and I love it when you learn something new. I also really enjoyed having a motivated and spritely main character who was a woman looking to stand tall in a man’s world.

The general story itself is enjoyable. However, many of my points on this aspect fall into the next part of my review . . .

Where I Was Let Down

This is a slow read. I got seriously bogged down in it. It’s ultimate problem is the lack of any action happening. It’s a lost-love story that stretches itself very thin by the end of it. Whilst it is heart warming and nice to see not only Eleanor in her old age come to terms with the past, but also her granddaughter sorting out her crumbling marriage, this is not what I thought I signed up for when I started this book.

The ending itself swung so determinedly from art, history and the excitement of the war years, to landing itself firmly into the chick-lit category that I could help but feel a little underwhelmed. But perhaps if one picked up this book knowing it was more of a family orientated story than nitty gritty historical fiction, the disappointment wouldn’t be there at all.


Would I recommend this? To the right people. I’m not raving about this book but I certainly don’t hate it. I really did like Eleanor’s character and I really enjoyed the historical tid bits I got to see. Art doesn’t make it all that often into WWII stories. So a happy, middle-ground three stars from me it is!

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Happy Reading

~~ Kirstie ~~


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