Days of Grace, By Catherine Hall

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The Independent Culture

Ghosts both contemporary (Sarah Waters) and classic (Daphne du Maurier) hover around this striking and, finally, chilling novel of wartime passion and repression. A 12-year-old evacuee, Nora from the East End discovers the wreckage behind respectability when lodging with the Rev Rivers and his family in Kent.

But she also meets the rector's daughter Grace, the soulmate whose life and hopes fuse with hers as pilots spar overhead. Idyllic rural afternoons, with secrets shared over "bites of apple and mouthfuls of wine", give way to the dramas of nascent desire in London. From the "Spitfire summer" to bombed-out Soho, Hall's backdrops feel familiar, but her writing has a terse and fierce precision that tightens into tragic fury.