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Our Last Letter: Absolutely gripping, epic and heartbreaking World War 2 historical fiction

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From the New York Times bestselling author comes an enthralling historical story inspired by true events - a brilliant, lonely young man and the ordinary English girl who changes his world forever - for readers who loved The Ragged Edge of Night , All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale . I'm getting desperate not hearing from you. Your letters are a l From the New York Times bestselling author comes an enthralling historical story inspired by true events - a brilliant, lonely young man and the ordinary English girl who changes his world forever - for readers who loved The Ragged Edge of Night , All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale . I'm getting desperate not hearing from you. Your letters are a lifeline and there is something I need to tell you. Please write, please, please. 1937, England. Kathleen Motts, with her flame-red curls and gift for geometry, grew up just across the water from the secretive RAF base, Bawdsey Manor, on the bleak and beautiful east coast. When the stars overhead turn red as warplanes surge towards her home, Kath is desperate to do her bit, enlisting as one of the first female radar operators, helping to keep the brave pilots safe in troubled skies. Vikram Mackensie is quiet, exceptional at maths and music, and always the outsider. When he's recruited for a top-secret war project at Bawdsey Manor, Vic's chance to belong has arrived at last. He may only be half-British, but he vows to help the country he loves. From their first meeting on windy cliffs above a rocky beach, Kath arrives like a blaze of warmth into Vic's grey life and turns the colour back on. As the war intensifies, so do Kath and Vic's feelings for each other. They may have grown up on different sides of the world - but if the war can't keep them apart, nothing will. But fate intervenes when Vic is posted to America, and Kath is left heartbroken and alone. As the silence between them grows, so does the secret that Kath is holding... As the sky falls around Kath, will she ever have more than one last letter? A heartbreaking and gripping novel, Our Last Letter shows that even in humanity's darkest moments, light and love will find a way.


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From the New York Times bestselling author comes an enthralling historical story inspired by true events - a brilliant, lonely young man and the ordinary English girl who changes his world forever - for readers who loved The Ragged Edge of Night , All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale . I'm getting desperate not hearing from you. Your letters are a l From the New York Times bestselling author comes an enthralling historical story inspired by true events - a brilliant, lonely young man and the ordinary English girl who changes his world forever - for readers who loved The Ragged Edge of Night , All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale . I'm getting desperate not hearing from you. Your letters are a lifeline and there is something I need to tell you. Please write, please, please. 1937, England. Kathleen Motts, with her flame-red curls and gift for geometry, grew up just across the water from the secretive RAF base, Bawdsey Manor, on the bleak and beautiful east coast. When the stars overhead turn red as warplanes surge towards her home, Kath is desperate to do her bit, enlisting as one of the first female radar operators, helping to keep the brave pilots safe in troubled skies. Vikram Mackensie is quiet, exceptional at maths and music, and always the outsider. When he's recruited for a top-secret war project at Bawdsey Manor, Vic's chance to belong has arrived at last. He may only be half-British, but he vows to help the country he loves. From their first meeting on windy cliffs above a rocky beach, Kath arrives like a blaze of warmth into Vic's grey life and turns the colour back on. As the war intensifies, so do Kath and Vic's feelings for each other. They may have grown up on different sides of the world - but if the war can't keep them apart, nothing will. But fate intervenes when Vic is posted to America, and Kath is left heartbroken and alone. As the silence between them grows, so does the secret that Kath is holding... As the sky falls around Kath, will she ever have more than one last letter? A heartbreaking and gripping novel, Our Last Letter shows that even in humanity's darkest moments, light and love will find a way.

30 review for Our Last Letter: Absolutely gripping, epic and heartbreaking World War 2 historical fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Stina

    ★★★ 3.5 stars I'm not sure what I expected from this book, given that it was based somewhat on fact, as I didn't want to be bogged down with a history lesson and a load of text that just went over my head. However, I was pleasantly surprised. UNDER A WARTIME SKY (also published as "Our Last Letter" ) by Liz Trenow is complex tale of wartime romance and duty with a bit of mathematical science thrown in - which did somewhat go over my head a little - with the development of radar and IFF instrum ★★★ 3.5 stars I'm not sure what I expected from this book, given that it was based somewhat on fact, as I didn't want to be bogged down with a history lesson and a load of text that just went over my head. However, I was pleasantly surprised. UNDER A WARTIME SKY (also published as "Our Last Letter" ) by Liz Trenow is complex tale of wartime romance and duty with a bit of mathematical science thrown in - which did somewhat go over my head a little - with the development of radar and IFF instrumentation. 1936: Kathleen Motts has just turned 16 and dreams of more than just marriage, kids and happily ever afters. With the unrest in Europe and war on the horizon, news is buzzing around Felixstowe about the top secret business going on over the river at the old Bawdsey Manor. Kath decides to get a closer look and under the guise of bird-watching, armed with her father's binoculars, takes the ferry across and attempts to catch a glimpse of whatever may be going on. But she is caught red-handed spying through the fence along the outer perimeter that not even her birdwatching excuse suffices to the powers-that-be. She is suitably chastised and sent off with a stern warning...and still none the wiser. Vikram Mackensie is half Indian, half Scottish and has lived in Britain since the age of 10 when he was sent to boarding school, having been born and raised in India on a tea plantation. It was soon discovered that he had a special aptitude for mathematics and science but not so much with people, lacking social skills and confidence. He then received a scholarship to Cambridge where his talents were soon noticed by a team of scientists who were looking for people with Vikram's particular skill set for a top secret project. His doctorate abandoned, Vic was sent to Bawdsey Manor in a place called Felixstowe on the Suffolk coast. It was here that his brilliant mind was put to work on developing radar, a tool kept secret which was to used to track incoming aircraft...and whether they were "friend or foe". Kath had been working at a restaurant for a couple of years when she left after a disagreement with a colleague regarding her brother. Unable to find any work with the war looming closer, she learnt of a position in the kitchen of Bawdsey Manor, where she began as assistant cook and rose to the rank of pastry chef. After a test flight for the radar Vic had been developing went wrong, Kath met Vic along the cliff walk, overlooking the North Sea. He couldn't tell her much due to the nature of the work being top secret but she listened to what he could say...and the two became friends. They took to meeting on the cliff walk as often as they could to talk, and she would often bring him pieces of her carrot cake which was his favourite. It was during one of these times that Kath expressed an interest in doing something worthwhile should the country go to war. Her brother Mark had already signed up for RAF and was training to be a pilot and she felt maybe she could something that would help. Mac suggested the WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force) or maybe an RDF operator. When all civilians were evacuated from Bawdsey with the threat of war looming ever closer, Kath and Vic went their separate ways but continued their friendship by way of letters. Kath soon joined the WAAF, underwent initial training and was given the opportunity to express her interest as an RDF operator. Given her mathematical ability, she was suitably granted her wish and trained in her chosen field. All throughout, she kept Vic up to date with her progress via letter. He too was soon evacuated from Bawdsey with only RAF personnel remaining. After qualifying as an RDF operator, Kath was sent to Fighter Command for specialist training before being posted at Bawsdey Manor. By this time, Vic was moving about where his knowledge and abilities were needed. But the two maintained their relationship through letters, and the odd shared leave whenever able. The two were planning a future together when Vic was sent to the US to expand his knowledge in radars and teach the Americans on what was to be another top secret project. But then...the letters stopped. What happened to them? Do they find one another again after the war ends? Or are they lost to one another forever? The Epilogue fast forwards to 1973, where the Prologue to the book began, and Vic has returned to the little Suffolk seaside village to pay his respects to his former Commanding Officer from Bawdsey Manor - the man who began his career in radio wave technology. Will his visit lay old ghosts to rest? Or will he rekindle a lost love that he never forgot? UNDER A WARTIME SKY is a wonderful story of love and war, of promise and hope, of loss as well as acceptance and diversity. But it's also the birth of radar technology which proved to be an asset to the allied forces in the air. Although it was a little slow to start and I wasn't sure of the direction it was taking at first, but once it found its footing UNDER A WARTIME SKY was an engaging story narrated alternately by both Kath and Vic in the third person. A wonderful historical tale of romance during wartime against the backdrop of the invention of radar technology, UNDER A WARTIME SKY is a compelling read that will delight lovers of historical fiction...particularly those who enjoy the World War 2 era. I would like to thank #LizTrenow, #NetGalley and #PanMacmillanUK for an ARC of #UnderAWartimeSky in exchange for an honest review. This review appears on my blog at https://stinathebookaholic.blogspot.com/.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joanna Park

    As frequent readers of my blog know I’m a huge fan of historical fiction especially set in the Second World War, so I was very excited to read Under A Wartime Sky. Once again the author has written a very interesting and absorbing dual timeline novel about a side of the war I didn’t know much about. Firstly whilst I had obviously heard of Bawdsey Manor I didn’t know much about the work they did so found it utterly fascinating to learn more about it. My husband who is actually an engineer for an a As frequent readers of my blog know I’m a huge fan of historical fiction especially set in the Second World War, so I was very excited to read Under A Wartime Sky. Once again the author has written a very interesting and absorbing dual timeline novel about a side of the war I didn’t know much about. Firstly whilst I had obviously heard of Bawdsey Manor I didn’t know much about the work they did so found it utterly fascinating to learn more about it. My husband who is actually an engineer for an aerospace company got thoroughly fed up with all the questions I kept asking him about what was discussed in the book but I was incredibly intrigued by it and wanted to learn as much as possible. Any kind of new developments during the war had great benefits to the war effort and I enjoyed finding out how they were all developed. The relationship that develops between Kath and Vic is really sweet to follow. The two of them seem unlikely friends to start with but I enjoyed watching them grow closer and help each other when they most seemed to need it. I kept hoping that their relationship would develop further and wanted to keep reading to find out if it did. This isn’t perhaps the most fast paced book but it is still very absorbing and I found I really enjoyed the story. The two stories came together really well and I liked the gradual unraveling of the mystery of what had happened which was really clever. I did enjoy the wartime story more than the more recent one but it was good to have a glimpse at all that had happened in the years after the war. Huge thanks to Ellis from Pan Macmillan for my copy of this book. If you’re a fan of historical fiction then you’ll definitely enjoy this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Robin Loves Reading

    It is 1937 England and unbeknownst to most, the second World War is on the horizon. Kathleen Morris has been happy and one of the things she enjoyed was gazing at the beautiful Bawdsey Manor. She starts to see changes, including gates and walls and strangers embarking in her small village. With an above-average intelligence for math, she eventually seeks to become part of the war effort, hoping to become one of the few women radar operators. Meanwhile, a man approaching the shore and looking for It is 1937 England and unbeknownst to most, the second World War is on the horizon. Kathleen Morris has been happy and one of the things she enjoyed was gazing at the beautiful Bawdsey Manor. She starts to see changes, including gates and walls and strangers embarking in her small village. With an above-average intelligence for math, she eventually seeks to become part of the war effort, hoping to become one of the few women radar operators. Meanwhile, a man approaching the shore and looking for the manor never left Kath's mind. Meanwhile, Vikram Mackensie has not always had it difficult. Although half British, his brown skin has always set him apart from others. His above-average intelligence as a scientist, however, has given him opportunities he never expected. He is one of the few men being used when it comes to detecting enemy radars. Vic is much like Kath in at least one respect. The two made a connection when he hit the beach, and despite the aggressive war efforts, they begin sending letters to one another. At some point, Kath is waiting for Vic's next letter and he is doing the same. Kath has no idea where Vic is posted when he was reassigned. Will the two ever meet again and will Kath ever be able to share a precious secret with Vic? Our Last Letter was an incredibly touching story where hope was never lost. I was riveted to this book, especially as I was able to see another layer to that brutal time in history. The element of love in this story was very effective. The conclusion brought tears of joy to me and with this being the second book that I have read by Liz Trenow I am certain I will be back for more. Many thanks to Bookouture and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    A really good book set in Suffolk. All places known to me and interesting to read about what was happening in Bawdsey Manor during the war. I do enjoy a historical story based on facts and this was an excellent example of one.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Janice

    I really loved this book, the story of the romance, the history, but most of all the settings. I could especially picture those sites in Felixstowe. Even Stowmarket got a mention. In the acknowledgements there was a mention for Steph and the team at Felixstowe library, so a credit for Suffolk Libraries, yes I am biased ! I will always think of Vic and Kath when I see Bawdsey and the ferry, Martlesham and Woodbridge. Ideas for days out when the lockdown is over. This is the only book that I have r I really loved this book, the story of the romance, the history, but most of all the settings. I could especially picture those sites in Felixstowe. Even Stowmarket got a mention. In the acknowledgements there was a mention for Steph and the team at Felixstowe library, so a credit for Suffolk Libraries, yes I am biased ! I will always think of Vic and Kath when I see Bawdsey and the ferry, Martlesham and Woodbridge. Ideas for days out when the lockdown is over. This is the only book that I have read in the last 4 weeks which really drew me in. I could see parallels between their search for a solution to a danger and the present day. I will always remember this book and the story of the discovery of Radar told in such an engaging way. The best book I have read by this author.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    A touching and heartfelt wartime romantic drama; I always look forward to picking up any of this authors books, because I know she puts a great deal of research into her stories. What I liked most about this book is how the author draws focus on the role of women who learnt how to navigate the new technology of its time. Much is to be said about how these real women expertly trained and carried out work that directly helped the war effort. Although the story slowed a little in places, for the mo A touching and heartfelt wartime romantic drama; I always look forward to picking up any of this authors books, because I know she puts a great deal of research into her stories. What I liked most about this book is how the author draws focus on the role of women who learnt how to navigate the new technology of its time. Much is to be said about how these real women expertly trained and carried out work that directly helped the war effort. Although the story slowed a little in places, for the most part I enjoyed this book and it’s setting was vividly described. Another successful novel by this gifted writer; I’ll look forward to the next time I can lose myself in her story.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sherrie

    This was a really good, very well researched book, down to the smallest detail. Its fictional but based on fact, about the discovery of RADAR by scientists based at Bawdsey during the last war. All the places were familiar to me. I loved the story of the friendship and romance between Kath and Vic, who met at Bawdsey Manor but would have liked to know more about their story in later years.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sarah - Sarah's Vignettes

    All reviews can be found at sarahsvignettes.wordpress.com I’ve not read any of Liz Trenow’s books before so it has been a real delight in finding a new author with a backlist of 7 books to discover! If they are anything like, Under a Wartime Sky, I know I’m in for a real treat. Set mainly in Felixstowe, Under a Wartime Sky starts in 1936 and tells the story of how radar was developed at Bawdsey Manor, Suffolk, in the run up to WW2. It is told through the eyes of 2 characters: Kathleen Motts and Vi All reviews can be found at sarahsvignettes.wordpress.com I’ve not read any of Liz Trenow’s books before so it has been a real delight in finding a new author with a backlist of 7 books to discover! If they are anything like, Under a Wartime Sky, I know I’m in for a real treat. Set mainly in Felixstowe, Under a Wartime Sky starts in 1936 and tells the story of how radar was developed at Bawdsey Manor, Suffolk, in the run up to WW2. It is told through the eyes of 2 characters: Kathleen Motts and Vikram Mackensie. Kathleen is a local girl who grew up seeing Bawdsey Manor from across the river at Felixstowe and was always intrigued to know what was truly going on there. We meet her when she is a 16-year old curious and naive teenager. She is bright but doesn’t apply herself at school. She gets a job in the kitchens at Bawdsey Manor before the war and meets Vik, a scientist who has been recruited from university to work on the top secret work with Robert Watson Watts – inventing the radar. During the pre-war months they are there, Vik makes Kath think differently and encourages her to apply to join the Women’s Auxillary Air Force (WAAFs) and to apply for a particular role, which unbeknownst to Kath, will support what he and his colleagues have been working on. The story follows their friendship and slow burning love story whilst telling Bawdsey’s story. I love books and films set in World War II and I thought I knew a lot about it. However, before reading Under a Wartime Sky, I had never heard of Bawdsey Manor and knew nothing about the important work of the scientists, engineers and WAAF radar operators did there during WW2 and how they helped Britain to win the war. Liz Trenow writes with authority. It is obvious that she has extensively researched Bawdsey, those who worked there, the work they did, the surrounding area and turned it into a successful story dedicated to this part of the war effort. Liz Trenow’s sense of place is strong. The descriptions of Bawdsey Manor, the radar masts on the landscape, the Felixstowe ferry to Bawdsey – there was no quayside at the time so passengers risked getting wet feet when getting in and out of the boat. This is all so well incorporated into the story that you certainly feel like you are there living it all with Kath and Vik. It is an immersive experience from the very first page. As well as looking at science, history, a slow burning romance borne out of friendship, Liz Trenow also incorporates plot elements that look at the social history of the time: homosexuality when it was still illegal, a Quaker who is deciding whether to consciously object, evacuees from London, the American Air Force bases and the dances. Through Kath’s character, she also shows how it was a great time of social change for women with their lives opening up. Kath goes on a real journey from a 16-year old teenager to a remarkable young woman working as a radar operator and saving countless lives. Recently, I haven’t been able to concentrate on reading for any great length of time, so I partly listened to the audio version of Under a Wartime Sky. The narrator was excellent and I found I couldn’t wait to pick the story back up again. Whether you read the book or listen to the audio, Under a Wartime Sky is an important read to understand a part of British history that is still relatively unknown. I loved Under a Wartime Sky and I am looking forward to discovering Liz Trenow’s backlist. *Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book in return for this honest review*

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rachael Cox

    1936: the threat of war hangs over Europe. Churchill gathers the brightest minds in Britain at a grand house in Suffolk. Bound to complete secrecy, they work together on an invention that could mean victory for the Allies. Among them is Vic, a gifted but shy physicist who, for the first time, feels like he belongs.  Local girl Kathleen wants to do more than serving tea and biscuits to ‘do her bit’. So when the Bawdsey team begin to recruit women to operate their top secret system, she dedicates h 1936: the threat of war hangs over Europe. Churchill gathers the brightest minds in Britain at a grand house in Suffolk. Bound to complete secrecy, they work together on an invention that could mean victory for the Allies. Among them is Vic, a gifted but shy physicist who, for the first time, feels like he belongs.  Local girl Kathleen wants to do more than serving tea and biscuits to ‘do her bit’. So when the Bawdsey team begin to recruit women to operate their top secret system, she dedicates herself to this life-or-death work. Kath and Vic form an unlikely friendship as the skies over Britain fill with German bombers. Little does Kath know just whose life she will change forever, one fateful night . . .  🌟  This is the first of Liz Trenow’s books I’ve read, but I am a huge historical fiction fan so I was very excited to read this and to be apart of the blog tour.   This is such an intriguing and absorbing read, written on dual timelime between present day and 1936, which people who know me, will know that I absolutely love this style of writing.   It is a very character given novel but both Kathleen and Vic were wonderful characters to get to know.   Trenow’s writing is absolutely beautiful and I loved ‘watching’ the relationship between Kathleen and Vic grow and wondering how close they would end up, it was both heartwarming and heartbreaking.  🌟  This is a very moving and intricate story about the power of hope. Under A Wartime Sky was a nice change from reading about the devastation caused by World War 2, with it’s focus being more with the scientists and the importance of radar. I’ve finished this book and I’ve learnt something and that’s also a refreshing change when reading fiction.   I was so engrossed in this beautiful story and I’m certain it will not be the last of Trenow’s work I read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    I usually like Liz Trenow's books more than I liked this. An interesting subject and a nice enough story but the writing seemed a bit pedestrian and the ending rather lame. Maybe 3 1/2 stars. I usually like Liz Trenow's books more than I liked this. An interesting subject and a nice enough story but the writing seemed a bit pedestrian and the ending rather lame. Maybe 3 1/2 stars.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jaffareadstoo

    With the threat of war looming, Kathleen Mott takes up a position in the kitchens of Bawdsey Manor in Suffolk. Sworn to secrecy, no-one is allowed to disclose the important war work going on at this top secret Military base, and for Vikram Mackensie and his colleagues the race is on to finalise the intricacies of a new aeroplane tracking system. What then follows is a lovely character driven novel which focuses on both Kath and Vic as they get drawn further and further into the war effort. Vic’s With the threat of war looming, Kathleen Mott takes up a position in the kitchens of Bawdsey Manor in Suffolk. Sworn to secrecy, no-one is allowed to disclose the important war work going on at this top secret Military base, and for Vikram Mackensie and his colleagues the race is on to finalise the intricacies of a new aeroplane tracking system. What then follows is a lovely character driven novel which focuses on both Kath and Vic as they get drawn further and further into the war effort. Vic’s ability with science and mathematics allows him to play a very special role whilst Kath is determined to do her bit in the WAAF. Gradually these two, quite different people, find that they have much in common, and that despite the irregularities of war they do their best to remain in contact with each other. The story draws you in very quickly, and I soon found that I liked Vic and Kath enormously, they are lovely characters to get to know and you can’t help but be engrossed in their trials and tribulations. It made a refreshing change to read a WW2 novel that didn’t rely entirely on the devastation caused by the war itself but which focused more on the technical side of the war effort. It was also fascinating to learn about the important part played by the boffins and scientists, which, thanks to their skill and knowledge, our fighter pilots took to the sky with a greater degree of security. I must admit that I knew absolutely nothing about this aspect of the war and of the race to find a reliable means of tracking aircraft. Of course, I realise now just how important radar navigation was to the success of the war and all credit to the author for bringing the true facts of the radar pioneers into sharp focus in such a readable way. The author writes this type of historical novel with great understanding of what readers want from historical fiction, so in Under a Wartime Sky we have an authentic historical setting, lovely warm hearted characters who you start to care about as friends, and a smattering of sweet romance, whilst at the same time the author carefully includes as much factual historical detail as necessary without ever losing sight of the human aspect of telling a really good story. Under a Wartime Sky is a beautifully written wartime saga which is an entirely appropriate read for this 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain as without the development of radar, the outcome of the war would have been very different for us as a country.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Thank you NetGalley and Bookouture for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This was my first book by Liz Trenow and I don't believe it will be my last. Ms. Trenow has written an engaging book about hope, love and loss during the Second World War. There are two main characters, the first one being Kathleen (Kath) Motts, who lives in Felixstowe with her mother Maggie and her father Bob. The other is Vikram (Vic or Mac) Mackenzie who is of mixed heritage - his father being Scottis Thank you NetGalley and Bookouture for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This was my first book by Liz Trenow and I don't believe it will be my last. Ms. Trenow has written an engaging book about hope, love and loss during the Second World War. There are two main characters, the first one being Kathleen (Kath) Motts, who lives in Felixstowe with her mother Maggie and her father Bob. The other is Vikram (Vic or Mac) Mackenzie who is of mixed heritage - his father being Scottish from Edinburgh and his mother from India. The story takes place in two time periods - starting in July 1936 and ending in December 1973. This story is part fiction and part non-fiction. For the most part it takes place in Bawdsey Manor. In 1873 William Cuthbert Quilter bought the land and built his Victorian home to which over the years he added towers. His wife Lady Quilter concentrated on the beautiful formal gardens. In 1936 the Air Ministry purchased the Manor from the Quilters. Sir Robert Watson-Watt and his team of scientists took up residence. They worked in absolute secrecy to develop a new radio direction finding technology as they feared that an outbreak of war was inevitable. RAF Bawdsey became the very first fully operational radar station in the world. It was Sir Watson-Watt's mother who convinced her son that they should be hiring women to train as radar operators as she felt that they had better concentration, more patience and delicate touches with the sensitive instruments than the men had. This was how the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) was founded. Vik was one of these brilliant scientists that worked on developing the radar and Kath went from working in a restaurant, to working in the kitchen at Bawdsey Manor to training and becoming a memeber of the WAAF as a radar operator. When they were not stationed in the same place they wrote to each other and kept in touch over the years. However, the war time postal service, not being very dependable ...... led to some misunderstandings, a loss of hope but in the end love does triumph. This book was absolutely engaging and very difficult to put down. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a lovely story with historical backgrounds.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gaele

    Vikram Mackensie is half Indian, half Scottish and utterly brilliant in maths and sciences, but less so with people. Feeling more than a bit adrift after his wife of 20 years has passed, the newspaper reveals a story that a friend and boss of his during the war had passed, and he’s gripped by a sudden desire to ‘return’ to where everything began to pay his respects, and perhaps find the woman from the little Suffolk seaside village that he mislaid some 30 years back. Kathleen Motts has always th Vikram Mackensie is half Indian, half Scottish and utterly brilliant in maths and sciences, but less so with people. Feeling more than a bit adrift after his wife of 20 years has passed, the newspaper reveals a story that a friend and boss of his during the war had passed, and he’s gripped by a sudden desire to ‘return’ to where everything began to pay his respects, and perhaps find the woman from the little Suffolk seaside village that he mislaid some 30 years back. Kathleen Motts has always thought that she was meant for ‘more’, even if she’d allowed herself to be distracted by a boy and then later the changes at Bawdsey Manor just a ferry-ride away from the center of town. With the war looming, and secrets coming at her left and right, she’s soon helping her mother at the Manor as a kitchen assistant – where she meets and unusual and rather shy Vik. Oh this story was lovely: from their war work separating them by miles and for weeks to their own missteps and miscues as both are ‘novices’ at the romance game: we get to know Vik and his struggles, Kath and hers – and get a peek inside the very important use of Vik’s brain in developing a system to identify and track airplanes using simple radio waves. But the story really isn’t in the connection of Vik’s invention to both provide Kath work and save many UK and US pilots (and targets for German bombs) during the war – but a story of the two finding one another, love and ultimately losing one another for many years. And the pure fate, or coincidence, that shows these two, who we’ve come to appreciate and cheer for, never really forgot each other and the “what if”. A lovely story that unfolds in two perspectives, full of the struggles and losses in a life (or two), particularly during wartime or separations, and the simple persistence due to a ‘mistake’ that brought them both back together once again. Each book that I’ve read from Liz Trenow brings complex characters, history and emotion to the forefront – and this is no exception. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. Review first appeared at I am, Indeed

  14. 5 out of 5

    Linda Hill

    There are secrets at Bawdsey Manor. Under A Wartime Sky was a fabulous read. I found it completely compelling as it transported me back in time. Readers who want visceral horror or violent crime should look elsewhere, but those looking for an assiduously researched, beautifully written and totally engaging historical narrative, will be completely ensnared by Liz Trenow. I found the settings and historical elements thrummed with detail so that Under A Wartime Sky transported me back in time complet There are secrets at Bawdsey Manor. Under A Wartime Sky was a fabulous read. I found it completely compelling as it transported me back in time. Readers who want visceral horror or violent crime should look elsewhere, but those looking for an assiduously researched, beautifully written and totally engaging historical narrative, will be completely ensnared by Liz Trenow. I found the settings and historical elements thrummed with detail so that Under A Wartime Sky transported me back in time completely, but to a slightly different milieu to so many WW2 books. The Bawdsey Manor developments are completely fascinating as they illustrate another reality of the era to the usual rationing and women in factories that so many books rely on. I loved the way the plot is bound by two short, more modern, sections that give such a satisfying structure. The socio-economic picture painted by Liz Trenow’s writing is perfect. She really understands how people functioned and brings them to life so vividly. Vic in particular is simply wonderful. No broad shouldered, flashing eyed smouldering cliché here, but a warm, genuine man whom I fell for completely. His sensitivity, his diffidence and his intelligence make him a character I believed in without question. I loved the balance between his story and Kath’s too. Although there is romantic attraction between them, realistic life intervenes so that I found their narrative all the more touching. There’s is a kind of universal tale that the era must have imposed on so many. The plot of Under A Wartime Sky is satisfying too. As well as an entertaining story, it encompasses so many themes that resonate today, with sexuality, ambition, rivalry, family and love explored sensitively and maturely making for a depth and enjoyment I so appreciated. If you’re looking for a book that is compassionate, compelling and totally authentic, look no further. Liz Trenow has woven all these components into a smashing narrative in Under A Wartime Sky and I really enjoyed it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dwina Willis

    Our Last Letter by Liz Trenow tells the story of the development of radar and IFF instrumentation. (According to my husband, the pilot, IFF is still used today in flying.) Vikram Mackensie is the son of a Scottish father and Indian mother. He was born in India on a tea plantation. At the age of ten, he was sent to boarding school in England where he showed a gift for mathematics. Having an Indian mother, the other students thought of him as the different boy, the brown boy. Because of his brilli Our Last Letter by Liz Trenow tells the story of the development of radar and IFF instrumentation. (According to my husband, the pilot, IFF is still used today in flying.) Vikram Mackensie is the son of a Scottish father and Indian mother. He was born in India on a tea plantation. At the age of ten, he was sent to boarding school in England where he showed a gift for mathematics. Having an Indian mother, the other students thought of him as the different boy, the brown boy. Because of his brilliant mind, he was working on a PhD in physics, specializing in radio waves, when he was selected to work with a group of other brilliant scientists who were tasked to develop radar. They also needed to find a way to tell if the airplane on radar was friend or foe. They were sent to Bawdsey Manor, a mansion built by millionaire Sir William Cuthbert Quilter, to work on this in secret. Kath was a young woman who was finishing her high school and was at loose ends as to what she would do afterwards. She lived near Bawdsey Manor and ended up working as a cook for the scientists. She was kind to Vic and they developed a friendship which was developing into something more when Vic was transferred. They keep up their relationship by writing letters. Kath joined the military and became a radar operator. She and Vic were planning a future together when he was sent to the US to work with Americans on another top secret project. and the letters stopped. Do they find one another again after the war. I was surprised at the ending. It is a sweet story of the relationship of Vic and Kath much more than the technical development of radar. This is a very different WWII historical fiction.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Johnson

    Wonderful book!! Thank you to Net Galley, Bookouture, and Liz Trenow for the ARC of “Our Last Letter”. World War 2 is in the horizon and Kathleen Motts’s brother has joined the RAF as a pilot. She is worried about him but she also feels the need to contribute to the war effort. She wants to feel useful! Vic Mackensie was working on his doctorate in Physics at Cambridge University when he was approached by one of his professors and asked to be part of a top secret group who would be doing groundbre Wonderful book!! Thank you to Net Galley, Bookouture, and Liz Trenow for the ARC of “Our Last Letter”. World War 2 is in the horizon and Kathleen Motts’s brother has joined the RAF as a pilot. She is worried about him but she also feels the need to contribute to the war effort. She wants to feel useful! Vic Mackensie was working on his doctorate in Physics at Cambridge University when he was approached by one of his professors and asked to be part of a top secret group who would be doing groundbreaking work developing radar for the government. Kathleen was a local girl who had lived near the coast her entire life. On a few occasions, she bumped into Vic in town. She knew he was one of the group of men who was working on a secret project at Bawdsey Manor. He was shy, quiet and polite. He was different from the other men in his group. He was kind but he seemed socially awkward. And she was curious about his mixed heritage of Scottish and Indian. He intrigued her! Over time, a friendship developed between the two. Unfortunately, as feelings between them were growing, they were both required to go to different places due to their wartime commitments. Letters flew back and forth and they both realized that they shared feelings for each other that had grown beyond friendship. She was everything he dreamed of and he was the man she’d been waiting for. Sadly, war waits for no one, and they were, again, required to uphold their duty to the country and go where they were told. This time, they would be continents apart. With a promise of love and hope for their future, they vowed to keep writing to one another and plan for their future. But then....the letters stopped. This is a wonderful story of love and war. I enjoyed learning about the use of radar technology during wartime. What a huge contribution to the success of the Allied forces in the air! What will become of the shared love of Vic and Kath? Anything can happen in wartime. Thank you to Net Galley, Bookouture, and the author, Liz Trenow, for providing me with the ARC of “Our Last Letter”. I enjoyed it thoroughly and I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Shirley McAllister

    Letters of Love This is a story of war time and of romance. It is also a story of a top secret invention that saved so many lives during the war. The men and women that invented it and those that perfected it and used it to keep others out of harm's way. Most of all it is a story of feelings, of loved ones lost, of courage to go on and of patriotism for one's country. The story of family and friends all sticking together to survive in war times. It is a story of acceptance, diversity and a feeling Letters of Love This is a story of war time and of romance. It is also a story of a top secret invention that saved so many lives during the war. The men and women that invented it and those that perfected it and used it to keep others out of harm's way. Most of all it is a story of feelings, of loved ones lost, of courage to go on and of patriotism for one's country. The story of family and friends all sticking together to survive in war times. It is a story of acceptance, diversity and a feeling of belonging, of being a part of something larger than yourself. Diplomacy and communication. Working together for a common goal. Long nights, exhausting work, and a bit of romance. The fear of loss, the bombing, the planes, the whole of war as seen from a few brave men and women. Those behind the scenes helping to keep those in battle safe. The story of a love found and lost because of missed communication. A young woman, a scientist, and the dream of a future. The ending is great, I loved it. There was a twist I never expected but in a good sort of way. I loved the characters, the book was engaging and very well written. I recommend it. Thanks to Liz Trenow, Bookouture, and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review an advance copy of the book for an honest review.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jo-anne Atkinson

    Anglo-Indian Vikram McKensie has always suffered prejudice because of his skin colour but his skill in mathematics and physics means that he is picked up by the Government and taken away from his studies at Cambridge. Landing in Felixstowe Vik is charged with developing a radio-based tracking system to support the RAF on the eve of the War. His posting brings him into contact with Kath. Kath is a local girl, young and headstrong whose brains are underused. She works as a cook at Bawdsley Manor a Anglo-Indian Vikram McKensie has always suffered prejudice because of his skin colour but his skill in mathematics and physics means that he is picked up by the Government and taken away from his studies at Cambridge. Landing in Felixstowe Vik is charged with developing a radio-based tracking system to support the RAF on the eve of the War. His posting brings him into contact with Kath. Kath is a local girl, young and headstrong whose brains are underused. She works as a cook at Bawdsley Manor and comes into contact with men working on the defences. Over time as Vik and Kath develop a romance, their service to their country contrives to keep them apart. Every time I read a book by Trenow I feel torn in my views. The books are very sentimental and quite gentle but some of the ideas and plots are hard-hitting. Here racial prejudice is to the fore but also the stigma of homosexuality in the mid-20th century yet nothing is particularly pushed driven home. The book is interesting but I found the final chapters altogether annoying. Letters not being received, a chance meeting over cake thirty years later, the final reveal, too much I'm afraid!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Simonne Lambert

    The Last Letter is a lovely story of an unlikely romance between Kathleen Mott and Vic (Vikram) Mackensie a half Indian half Scottish scientist working with Mr Watson-Watts and other hand picked scientists on a top secret plan to develop Radar or RDF as it was first known. Vic was sent to Bawdsey Manor near Felixstowe where Kath lived. Their romance began when they met at Bawdsey where Kath was a cook and continued through letters during the war as Kath joined the WAAF. Kath talking about the do The Last Letter is a lovely story of an unlikely romance between Kathleen Mott and Vic (Vikram) Mackensie a half Indian half Scottish scientist working with Mr Watson-Watts and other hand picked scientists on a top secret plan to develop Radar or RDF as it was first known. Vic was sent to Bawdsey Manor near Felixstowe where Kath lived. Their romance began when they met at Bawdsey where Kath was a cook and continued through letters during the war as Kath joined the WAAF. Kath talking about the doodlebug bombs reminded me of my mum. She would have been Kath’s age during the war growing up in Liverpool. I remember her telling me about the doodlebugs. As long as you could hear them it was okay, it meant they were still passing over - you were in trouble when you couldn’t hear them anymore. This book is written so beautifully. I could feel the heartache of the parents who sent their sons to war. And the bravery of the pilots who risked their lives on every single mission. “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”. A well done work of fiction and fact. Recommended. Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Great read. I would probably give it 3.5 stars. Although, "In Love and War" is still my favorite book by the author. This was a beautiful story. It started out a little slow and I wasn't sure what was going to happen. I loved reading about Vic and Kath and learning more about them. I was sad to see the book end because I wanted to read about what happens next for them, but definitely happy about the ending. Vic seemed like such a sweet man. I wouldn't have minded reading about Kath and Vic's liv Great read. I would probably give it 3.5 stars. Although, "In Love and War" is still my favorite book by the author. This was a beautiful story. It started out a little slow and I wasn't sure what was going to happen. I loved reading about Vic and Kath and learning more about them. I was sad to see the book end because I wanted to read about what happens next for them, but definitely happy about the ending. Vic seemed like such a sweet man. I wouldn't have minded reading about Kath and Vic's lives after the war. Enjoyed the characters, story and writing style. Definitely recommend the book, especially if you are a fan of historical fiction with a bit of romance. The book is a little more heavy on the scientific terms, since radio waves is Vic's specialty. Look forward to reading more books by the author. Love the cover of the book. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Pan Macmillan through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jane Lomas

    I've walked along the coast at Bawdsey in Suffolk many times and wondered about the large manor house looking out to sea. So I picked up 'Under a Wartime Sky' with interest. A picture of the manor house is on the cover and I learned that it was commandeered by the War Office to develop an invention that turned out to be pivotal in protecting our shores. The story is one of intrigue and romance, and a beautiful portrayal of ordinary lives overturned by the outbreak of WWII. Liz Trenow has created I've walked along the coast at Bawdsey in Suffolk many times and wondered about the large manor house looking out to sea. So I picked up 'Under a Wartime Sky' with interest. A picture of the manor house is on the cover and I learned that it was commandeered by the War Office to develop an invention that turned out to be pivotal in protecting our shores. The story is one of intrigue and romance, and a beautiful portrayal of ordinary lives overturned by the outbreak of WWII. Liz Trenow has created believable characters who try to adapt to their continuingly changing situations. As in all wartime stories, there are moments of heady jubilation shattered by loss and despair and the pace keeps the reader immersed. I really enjoyed this book and now I'm keen to go back to Bawdsey - but this time to take the ferry from Felixstowe and imagine what life must have been like under a wartime sky.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Danielle Urban

    Our Last Letter by Liz Trenow is a complex read. Its story is full of emotion, war, and distance. Two unlikely people meet, fall in love, and then are separated. They write letters to each other until their lives take them away from each other. I could only imagine Kath's heart breaking as she misses the man who stole her heart. This book first presented so much love and hope for a better future. Then, the couple are separated and war is happening. The grief and loss as distance has torn the cha Our Last Letter by Liz Trenow is a complex read. Its story is full of emotion, war, and distance. Two unlikely people meet, fall in love, and then are separated. They write letters to each other until their lives take them away from each other. I could only imagine Kath's heart breaking as she misses the man who stole her heart. This book first presented so much love and hope for a better future. Then, the couple are separated and war is happening. The grief and loss as distance has torn the characters apart can be felt on every page. The story carefully depicted the time in history very well. I could feel the tensions and stress of war time. The back and forth from past to present was a bit difficult to follow. Overall, this novel was entertaining and felt real. I received this copy from the publisher. This is my voluntary review.

  23. 4 out of 5

    J_Mc 251

    It’s always fun to learn something new, and I learned a lot about the invention of radar and its importance in WWII from this well-written novel. I liked the characters and thought that the author did a fantastic job of creating characters with challenges that they had to overcome. I especially liked Kath’s story arc, as I think she was very relatable. The end seemed a little bit rushed, but all in all, I thought the way Vic and Kath’s story was interwoven was very effective. For a full review, It’s always fun to learn something new, and I learned a lot about the invention of radar and its importance in WWII from this well-written novel. I liked the characters and thought that the author did a fantastic job of creating characters with challenges that they had to overcome. I especially liked Kath’s story arc, as I think she was very relatable. The end seemed a little bit rushed, but all in all, I thought the way Vic and Kath’s story was interwoven was very effective. For a full review, please visit my blog at Fireflies and Free Kicks. Thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for a pre-release digital ARC of the book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Diane Secchiaroli

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A great WW2 novel about a woman, Kath, and a man, Vic, who is half Indian and their failed romance. Vic is a scientist who develops radar during the war for the British, who meets Kath who is working as a pastry cook at the secret location where they developed the radar. This story is about their developing friendship which turns into a romance. They lose contact with one another during the war even though they both had continued to write to one another. The story revolves around class distincti A great WW2 novel about a woman, Kath, and a man, Vic, who is half Indian and their failed romance. Vic is a scientist who develops radar during the war for the British, who meets Kath who is working as a pastry cook at the secret location where they developed the radar. This story is about their developing friendship which turns into a romance. They lose contact with one another during the war even though they both had continued to write to one another. The story revolves around class distinction, the development of radar, the RAF fighters and the role of women during the war. Theirs is a sad story only finding each other again after many years.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tuscania

    I received this book from Netgalley as an ARC for my honest review. I have read other books by Liz Trenow therefore I was really looking forward to reading this one. From the beginning reading the prologue I was intrigued to find out what happened between Vik & Katherine. I was expecting the story to start out with letters but that did not happen until mid way through the story. It was interesting seeing everything that evolved throughout their lives. I was a bit surprised when the last letter w I received this book from Netgalley as an ARC for my honest review. I have read other books by Liz Trenow therefore I was really looking forward to reading this one. From the beginning reading the prologue I was intrigued to find out what happened between Vik & Katherine. I was expecting the story to start out with letters but that did not happen until mid way through the story. It was interesting seeing everything that evolved throughout their lives. I was a bit surprised when the last letter was sent and then it went right into the epilogue. I am glad that it went into detail as to what happened after the last letter.

  26. 5 out of 5

    LaBibliodeCaro

    Based on real-life events, Under a Wartime Sky tells the story of the discovery of radar in a top secret research centre based in a mysterious manor. There, assistant cook Kath meets technical expert Vic. Both characters are endearing protagonists whose budding romance is derailed by an imminent international conflict, later known as the Second World War. It was really interesting to learn more about how this technology emerged. It is a well-researched historical novel full of emotions, despite Based on real-life events, Under a Wartime Sky tells the story of the discovery of radar in a top secret research centre based in a mysterious manor. There, assistant cook Kath meets technical expert Vic. Both characters are endearing protagonists whose budding romance is derailed by an imminent international conflict, later known as the Second World War. It was really interesting to learn more about how this technology emerged. It is a well-researched historical novel full of emotions, despite a few lengthy parts. Both lead characters evolve in unexpected ways and I thought the epilogue was really poignant. I recommend it!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Woods

    Could have been quite good. This book set in the WWII era in a small town in Britain is sadly bogged down with too much boring technology. The birth of radar is at the core here. The idea of a burgeoning romance between two unlikely people during this time is almost lost in the stagnate descriptions of the technology of the era. The author obviously did much research into the subject of the scientifics of such important work preparing for war and during war, but went way over my head and hardly k Could have been quite good. This book set in the WWII era in a small town in Britain is sadly bogged down with too much boring technology. The birth of radar is at the core here. The idea of a burgeoning romance between two unlikely people during this time is almost lost in the stagnate descriptions of the technology of the era. The author obviously did much research into the subject of the scientifics of such important work preparing for war and during war, but went way over my head and hardly kept me willing to read on. I did finish the book, but I was mostly uninterested. Best part was the epilogue.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Charlene

    Bawdsey Manor, the top-secret RAF base, sits on a hill across the river from the town Kathleen Motts grew up in. Physicist Vikram Mackensie, half Indian/half Brit, is working there on inventions vital to the coming war effort. After Kathleen comes to work at Bawdsey as part of the WAAF, their paths cross from time to time, and their relationship deepens into something more just as the war ramps up and they are transferred away from each other again and again. The first chapter of this book hooke Bawdsey Manor, the top-secret RAF base, sits on a hill across the river from the town Kathleen Motts grew up in. Physicist Vikram Mackensie, half Indian/half Brit, is working there on inventions vital to the coming war effort. After Kathleen comes to work at Bawdsey as part of the WAAF, their paths cross from time to time, and their relationship deepens into something more just as the war ramps up and they are transferred away from each other again and again. The first chapter of this book hooked me, and my interest never waned. I loved learning about the early days of radar and how it was implemented as an air defense and warning system.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I enjoyed the interesting facts about developing Radar. That is something that I knew happened during WW2 but never read much about it. Vic has challenges to overcome. He begins to find his place but at the same times struggles. Kath is young and as the war progresses she grows up. I don't understand how the letters were lost. It makes me sad to think about what was lost because of those letters. As with most books written, there is a bit of homosexual behaviour. It seems that this is written int I enjoyed the interesting facts about developing Radar. That is something that I knew happened during WW2 but never read much about it. Vic has challenges to overcome. He begins to find his place but at the same times struggles. Kath is young and as the war progresses she grows up. I don't understand how the letters were lost. It makes me sad to think about what was lost because of those letters. As with most books written, there is a bit of homosexual behaviour. It seems that this is written into books to just make it appear that it is natural. It is not natural and we should not begin to think that way. Thanks to netgalley for a copy to review. The review and opinions are my own.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gina R Mitchell

    World War Two era books are not my usual genre. However, Our Last Letter absolutely swept me away. The characters are so well-written, I felt like I knew them all. The descriptive settings put you into the story from page one. You can feel the fear, worry, and turmoil of the times. I also learned so much about the development of radar for the war, it was a fascinating aspect of the story. I would highly recommend this book to all lovers of historical fiction, romance, world war 2 era stories, and World War Two era books are not my usual genre. However, Our Last Letter absolutely swept me away. The characters are so well-written, I felt like I knew them all. The descriptive settings put you into the story from page one. You can feel the fear, worry, and turmoil of the times. I also learned so much about the development of radar for the war, it was a fascinating aspect of the story. I would highly recommend this book to all lovers of historical fiction, romance, world war 2 era stories, and great story-telling.

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