Curated: Interwar Novels

01 November 2013
My mother used to have a wooden chest filled to the brim with books. As a child, I didn't know what kind of chest it was, what type of wood was used to make it, or where it came from. I just new that the lid took all my strength to lift, the top tray kind of tricky for my little arms to move out of the way, and that the smell was a mixture of sweet wood and old books.

Flambards by KM Peyton


Throughout the years, I would retreat into this chest, eager to discover a little secret story that I could call my favorite. Some books were easy to shove past, some only served as a good flip-through to feel the wisp of a breeze and inhale the scent of pages fluttering before me, but others, like Flambards, pricked at my curiosity and latched on to me forever.

I think I was in high school when I discovered this book. The main character's name was Christina, and she was a brunette, and it's so rare to come across heroines who share your name and hair color, so naturally, I had to read it.



I remember my mother seeing me with it and remarking that she bought the book after seeing the PBS mini series in the 80s. She always liked the main character, and the name, Christina, and as my Aunt's name was already Christine, it was sort of set in stone that my name would be Christina too.

Now, I make it a habit to read Flambards every fall or winter. It's one of those curl-up books that you never grow tired of reading no matter how old you are or what season of life you're in.

It's a coming of age tale around decaying English estates, the threat of war, the rise of industrialization, and young love and loss.

And now, ten or so years later, I'm reading it with my husband, relishing in the fact that my life has paralleled the character, Christina, in so many ways - including falling in love with a man who lives and breathes science and discovery.

the secret keeper by Kate Morton


This book was my gateway book to novels set during the interwar period, a term that typically refers to the years between WWI and WWII (1919-1939).

For me, personally, an interwar novel has at least one part of it that takes place during this time period, or characters that were alive during this period (even if the book takes place a little bit before or after these years). So, it should be no surprise that Downton Abbey was a favorite television series of mine.

If you love Downton Abbey, you'll probably like these interwar novels just as much:

Flambards by K.M. Peyton
This is actually a trilogy. I'm not sure if the edition pictured in this post is still in print so make sure you get all three stories if you buy other editions!

The House at Tynford by Natasha Solomons
Set in 1938 England on the brink of war, the story revolves around a Jewish parlor maid working on an English estate.

The Distant Hours or The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
Kate Morton has quickly become one of my all-time favorite authors. With her novels, you can depend on family secrets that stretch decades, strong heroines, and adventure. She's written other amazing books, but I don't want this to start sounding like I was paid to write this. ;)

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell
This book was such a surprise for me. It touches on the expectations of women during this period and what sometimes happened when they don't live up to them.

The Passing Bells by Phillip Rock
Next on my reading list - I picked this up in a store when I was out of town and needing something to read. The cover advertised "Before there was Downton Abbey ...." and I said, "say no more!!"

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