Cover Image: Under a Wartime Sky

Under a Wartime Sky

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Member Reviews

★★★ 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.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book and story. I knew very little about this aspect of the war so reading about it was so darn interesting. What truly enveloped me was the writing style. It was done in a subtle manner, gently drawing me in and there I continued until I reached the end of the story with some frustration because I just want more!
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I loved it. I loved the setting. I loved the history. I loved the romance between Vik and Kath. Really awesome historical fiction.
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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.
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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!
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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!
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An interesting book on a subject I wasn’t familiar with. Despite  living close to Bawdsey Manor I was unaware of its history but I am familiar with the surroundings area and particularly Felixstowe. In some chapters I struggled to maintain interest but I did read it to the end. I was rather annoyed by the stereotyped description of Kath at the end though!
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Such an interesting storyline. It had me once again looking up the key named characters!
Vikram is highly intelligent but feels like he doesn't fit in and he finds making friends difficult. 
With the outbreak of WW2 looming Vik finds himself in Felixstow working for the government.
Whilst there Vik discovers himself, makes friends with Kath and Johnnie.
A great story of an invention that change the war and it's still in use today. The book is filled with love, friendship and  forbidden love.
A great easy read.
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I enjoyed this wartime drama. Based on real life events, I found this book to be well written and full of convincing historical detail. The characters were well drawn and convincing.

Thank you to NetGalley and to the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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A good read. The historical details were really interesting and I would have liked some more in the book. The book seemed to be more about the romance between Vikram and Kath.

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
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An excellent historical novel, poignant and engrossing. The story flows, the characters are interesting and the plot keeps you hooked till the end.
An excellent read, highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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Thank you to Netgalley for this advanced reader's copy in return for my honest review. Wartime drama, Interesting and engaging characters.
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I loved this story of fiction based on factual events before and during world war two. Set in a secret location,  work is being done to perfect radar to benefit the  R.A.F.fighter pilots and bomber command. Two of the most unlikely people are thrown together and they eventually realise that they are more than friends. I found the story compelling and moving and I can highly recommend.
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Fantastic war-time genre. This was an interesting read, I felt like the period was brought to life, and sensitively told with warmth and the kinds of characters you grow to care about.
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This was an excellent wartime drama that I very much enjoyed. Strong.characters and a fascinating storyline make for an exciting read. Highly recommended.
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A good book with a different slant on wartime activities. Definitely recommended to those who enjoy this genre.
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Love this authors books.A book that drew me in from the first pages.Historical fiction at its best took me back to another time another place.Highly recommend this and all the authors wonderful books.#netgalley#panmacmillanbooks
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I loved the concept of this book but it took me a little while to get into it. I wasn't as hooked as I thought I'd be but I did enjoy it.
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Fantastic book love this sort of read , couldn't put it down until I had finished  love this author's books .
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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.
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