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The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams will linger with me, much as the note from a piano echoes long after it’s played.
The title, The Golden Hour, fits this novel perfectly. The golden hour is the time just before sunset when the world turns a golden hue where anything is possible. Yet the golden quality suggests peace, calm, tranquility, a hidden urgency that isn’t felt but more sensed.
That’s what this book is about. The hidden, quiet ability in all of us for something unexpected.
A Historical Game of Cat and Mouse
The Golden Hour is a World War II novel, but it’s unlike any WWII novel I have read.
To start, it centers on the Bahamas and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor while the duke was governor there. For those who have not already binged The Crown on Netflix, the Duke of Windsor was King Edward VIII who abdicated from the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, that American divorcee.
History is rife with speculation (or perhaps facts?) that the Duke of Windsor was a traitor and Nazi sympathizer. Williams mentions in her historical note that this story was inspired by a tip from her editor when she mentioned this to Williams.
I found launching the story from the Bahamas and the Windsors gave this book a fresh twist and put it at an advantage for showing the war as a global affair.
Parallel Timelines and The World Map
If you have read any of Williams’ work, you will be familiar with her skill at bending history to her storytelling whims, and The Golden Hour is no exception.
The story starts with Lulu in a war torn London waiting to meet with some individual. It’s all very secretive and spy-ish and somewhere you know her husband is missing, captured by the Germans. Then the tables are turned and she’s torn away by her husband’s sister, whom she’s never met. So many questions arise at once that you’re inevitably swept into the story to see how Lulu got in the bind she’s in.
The story is told in multiple timelines through two characters: Lulu and Elfriede. Lulu has two timelines: the present (end of 1943) and the past (her arrival to the Bahamas to November 1943). Elfriede’s story is told chronologically along one timeline beginning in 1900 Switzerland and skipping to Austria to Florida to Scotland.
This jumping of time and space did two things. It portrayed the echoing effect of the first world war as similar themes appear in both characters’ timelines both contained within a war. It also showed the totality of the war as it spanned the globe, and no one was safe from it. Not even in the soporific Bahamas.
The Golden Hour As It Relates to Themes
Williams is an expert at not saying what we’re all thinking. She grapples with topics of extraordinary complexity with mastery, never using the word for the thing of which she’s writing. In this book it was depression.
Williams’ characters do things that may make the reader uncomfortable through a contemporary lens. But I think that’s the point. Depression is not an easy subject to discuss by itself, and historically, it was not treated with respect. Elfriede’s character exhibits this history and while the reader may balk at what happens, it must be noted that’s how you’re supposed to feel. You’re supposed to see how awful the treatment of Elfriede was for this will give her her victory in the end.
The golden hour of possibility is like the haze that surrounds a person suffering from depression, the effects of war, the struggle of infidelity. (Not a spoiler. This happens right away in the book.) While there are possibilities they may not all be good but it all carries that sense of anticipation that more is to come.
Is There a Happy Ending?
In classic Williams form, she will leave you guessing until the very end. This is what I enjoy so much about Williams’ novels. You think you have it figure out, but you don’t. You haven’t even come close. The Golden Hour holds to this standard. If you enjoy a historical fiction novel of some complexity, this is your book.
If you’re familiar with this blog, you know I mention potential trigger points for readers of this book. I do not read books about dogs for obvious reasons. I completely understand that other topics may be a deal breaker for readers.
In The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams, issues discussed are:
- Depression (particularly postpartum depression)
If You Liked…
You will enjoy The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams if you liked:
The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton
A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner
Final Thoughts on The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams
This historical women’s fiction novel could be vague at times when it came to stating what was happening. If you enjoy more straight forward books, this may not be your bag. That said, I did eventually follow what was happening so it wasn’t an issue for me.
Have You Read The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams?
Let us know what you thought of it in the comments, but please – no spoilers!
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