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The Secret Guests: A Novel par Benjamin…
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The Secret Guests: A Novel (édition 2020)

par Benjamin Black (Auteur)

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956232,728 (3.24)10
Ahead of the German Blitz during World War II, English parents from every social class sent their children to the countryside for safety, displacing more than three million young offspring. In The Secret Guests, the British royal family takes this evacuation a step further, secretly moving the princesses to the estate of the Duke of Edenmore in "neutral" Ireland. A female English secret agent, Miss Celia Nashe, and a young Irish detective, Garda Strafford, are assigned to watch over "Ellen" and "Mary" at Clonmillis Hall. But the Irish stable hand, the housemaid, the formidable housekeeper, the Duke himself, and other Irish townspeople, some of whom lost family to English gunshots during the War of Independence, go freely about their business in and around the great house. Soon suspicions about the guests' true identities percolate, a dangerous boredom sets in for the princesses, and, within and without Clonmillis acreage, passions as well as stakes rise.… (plus d'informations)
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Bored.... ( )
  SarahKDunsbee | Aug 2, 2021 |
This book was a bit of a disappointment. The description indicated that it would be about the 2 young princesses during WWII taken to safety during the war. It was actually about the police and undercover folks who were supposed to protect them and all the poor choices these folks made to actually put the princesses in danger. There was very little about the princesses themselves and it is not clear that this was even based upon true events. If you have something better to do, give this book a miss. ( )
  Katyefk | Jul 12, 2021 |
Although never confirmed, there has been a longstanding rumor that British princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were shippeddispatched out of England during the blitz of 1940 and shipped off to Ireland for their own protection. That is the basic premise of this book - the security detail; a sequestered stay at a relation's run-down estate; the IRA's attempt to mess with the crown's control, etc.

This all sounded like it could be a fabulous read, yet sadly, in my opinion, it was not. Of all the characters in the book, the only one which tugged on any of my emotions was the young Princess Margaret. She was sweet, brave, frightened at times, precocious, and occasionally irksome. I had hoped that each of the characters would work their charm on me as the book developed, which unfortunately, never happened.

I will grant author Benjamin Black one thing and that is his deft ability to write well. Much of his descriptive writing was exquisitely atmospheric, at times painterly and rather poetic. For that alone the book drew me as a moth to the flame. The story could have been so much more but it all left me rather flat. after Those hours of reading can never be recaptured...sigh... ( )
  KateBaxter | Mar 4, 2020 |
As part of Germany’s attempt to destroy British war industry during World War II, German bombers dropped thousands of bombs on London and the country’s other key industrial and port cities. The concentrated bombing campaign that began in 1940 and ended in 1941 would ultimately see the destruction of more than one million homes and 20,000 civilian deaths in London alone. Roughly ten percent of those killed during the London Blitz were children despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of children were evacuated from the city. B.W. Black’s The Secret Guests wonders what it would have been like if the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret had been among those children sent to safer ground.

In this alternate history of events, not only are Elizabeth and Margaret evacuated from London, they are sent to Ireland - where they face a different kind of danger - rather than to a country like Canada where they would have been completely safe. The problem, of course, is that getting the girls safely to Canada is much more dangerous than getting them to “neutral” Ireland. Even as World War II progresses, the 1919-1921 Irish War of Independence (resulting in the creation of Northern Ireland and all of the problems to come from that partition) is still very much a factor in the relationship between Ireland and Britain. That Ireland has declared herself neutral in the war between Germany and Britain does not necessarily mean that the majority of the country’s citizens are secretly rooting for Britain to prevail. No, for their own political purposes, there are plenty in Ireland who would love to get their hands on the young princesses – and they are willing to kill to get them.

Elizabeth (age 14) and Margaret (age 10) arrive at the remote estate belonging to the Duke of Edenmore not knowing what to expect. By the time of their arrival, the girls have learned to answer to the names Emily and Mary but they are a little taken aback by the physical state of the large old house in which the Duke lives alone with his staff of servants. Joining the girls is newly minted British secret agent Celia Nashe, who is on her very first assignment, and a young Irish cop, Detective Garda Strafford. Before long, the girls and their protectors have resigned themselves to a routine of horseback riding, reading whatever is on hand or available in the village’s small library, quiet meals together, early bedtimes, and general solitude. The only one of them able to maintain much of a spark is young Margaret – who spies on everyone constantly and has a better grasp of what is really going on around her than any of the adults there.

But boredom breeds complacency, and in this case, complacency breeds danger.

Bottom Line: B.W. Black (pseudonym for Irish novelist John Banville) offers something here a bit different from the spate of World War II fiction of the past few months. Interestingly, the bulk of The Secret Guests is spent exploring everyday life on the estate and how the royal princesses settle into the dullness of their new world as they learn more about those secluded there with them. Black presents Elizabeth and Margaret as children already clearly exhibiting the personalities that would later define them as adults. Elizabeth is seen as aloof and proper; Margaret as impetuous and adventuress. As such, Margaret, the youngest person in the story, is often its driving force.

Review Copy provided by Henry Holt and Company ( )
  SamSattler | Dec 9, 2019 |
3.5* rounded to 4

When the bombing in London began during WWII, many Londoners looked for a safe haven for their children. The King and Queen of England were no different. Although they were determined to remain in London for the morale of the country, they did choose to remove their daughters from the threat of the London Blitz.

In this story, it was decided neutral Ireland was the safest place to send them. They were spirited out of London in the night to a distant relative’s estate in the Irish countryside. It was a top-secret endeavor and included a detective and a secret agent as the chaperones. What began as a dull and uneventful stay, soon became one of chaos and peril.

I enjoyed the unique characters portrayed in the story and the descriptive nature of Ireland and their conflicting views of the English during that time period. At times, the story lagged a bit, but overall I found it very entertaining. Black writes about some dark times, but does so in a way that doesn’t overwhelm readers with gloom.

Readers looking for a new perspective during World War II that illustrates the relationship between England and Ireland during those years will enjoy this new historical fiction by Benjamin Black.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Henry Holt & Company for allowing me to read an advance copy and give my honest review. ( )
  tamidale | Nov 27, 2019 |
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Ahead of the German Blitz during World War II, English parents from every social class sent their children to the countryside for safety, displacing more than three million young offspring. In The Secret Guests, the British royal family takes this evacuation a step further, secretly moving the princesses to the estate of the Duke of Edenmore in "neutral" Ireland. A female English secret agent, Miss Celia Nashe, and a young Irish detective, Garda Strafford, are assigned to watch over "Ellen" and "Mary" at Clonmillis Hall. But the Irish stable hand, the housemaid, the formidable housekeeper, the Duke himself, and other Irish townspeople, some of whom lost family to English gunshots during the War of Independence, go freely about their business in and around the great house. Soon suspicions about the guests' true identities percolate, a dangerous boredom sets in for the princesses, and, within and without Clonmillis acreage, passions as well as stakes rise.

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