Acclaimed author and managing director of The Times Literary Supplement, James MacManus, creates a compelling historical novel that brings to life an unbelievable but true love story set during the Second World War. In 1942, Cork-born Kay Summersby’s life is changed forever when she is tasked with driving General Eisenhower on his fact-finding visit to wartime London. Despite Eisenhower’s marriage to Mamie, the pair takes an immediate liking to one another and he gifts Kay a rare wartime luxury: a box of chocolates. So begins a tumultuous relationship that against all military regulation sees Kay travelling with Eisenhower on missions to far flung places before the final assault on Nazi Germany. She becomes known as “Ike’s shadow” and in letters Mamie bemoans his new obsession with ‘Ireland’. That does not stop him from using his influence to grant Kay US citizenship and rank in the US army, drawing her closer when he returns to America. When the US authorities discover Eisenhower’s plans to divorce from his wife they threaten the fragile but passionate affair and Kay is forced to take desperate measures to hold onto the man she loves…
MacManus has an effortless flow to his storytelling and you’re transported back to the 1940s. He doesn’t get overly flowery in details and yet he gives great descriptions. Like the title implies this is a story about Ike and Kay, his driver, there are a couple of other chapters that are from the POV of others but they are part of history and their story in a way so it does work.
Kay was an interesting character and you could have a good bit of sympathy for her for the choices she makes, knowing she does things usually with the best intentions/out of love.
I do think MacManus did a commendable job with Ike, we’re not meant to idolize him in this and in fact he does a lot to show him as someone who achieved quite a bit but didn’t go unscathed by making mistakes in his personal life. I really didn’t like Ike, but not because of MacManus’s lack of competency, rather, because he did so well writing him. He is not the hero of this story.
The historical aspects of this were hands down my favorite parts, and the romance was as grey and confusing as I think it was meant to be.
Overall it was an intriguing read and I really enjoyed learning more about Ike through this as it definitely led me to look into him more after being fascinated by this book!
Thank you to Duckworth Publishing for a free eBook of this in exchange for my honest review as part of the blog tour.
About the Author
James MacManus is the managing director of The Times Literary Supplement. After studying at St Andrews University he began his career in journalism at the Daily Express in Manchester. Joining The Guardian in 1972, he later became Paris, and then Africa and Middle East Correspondent. He is the author of several novels including On the Broken Shore, Black Venus, Sleep in Peace Tonight and Midnight in Berlin. James MacManus has three children and lives in Dulwich, London.
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