Book Review for “Three Words for Goodbye” by Heather Webb & Hazel Gaynor.
Summary: “New York, 1937: When estranged sisters Clara and Madeleine Sommers learn their grandmother is dying, they agree to fulfill her last wish: to travel across Europe—together. They are to deliver three letters, in which Violet will say goodbye to those she hasn’t seen since traveling to Europe forty years earlier; a journey inspired by famed reporter, Nellie Bly. Clara, ever-dutiful, sees the trip as an inconvenient detour before her wedding to millionaire Charles Hancock, but it’s also a chance to embrace her love of art. Budding journalist Madeleine relishes the opportunity to develop her ambitions to report on the growing threat of Hitler’s Nazi party and Mussolini’s control in Italy. Constantly at odds with each other as they explore the luxurious Queen Mary, the Orient Express, and the sights of Paris and Venice, Clara and Madeleine wonder if they can fulfill Violet’s wish, until a shocking truth about their family brings them closer together. But as they reach Vienna to deliver the final letter, old grudges threaten their reconciliation again. As political tensions rise, and Europe feels increasingly volatile, the pair are glad to head home on the Hindenburg, where fate will play its hand in the final stage of their journey.”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Women, Fiction; Settings: Historical; New York, Paris, Venice, Vienna; Other Categories: Novel, Coming-of-Age, Family Saga.
When a novel opens with the authors telling us that our protagonists will be involved with a major historic event, it almost guarantees that you’re not going rest until you get to that bit! I mean, seriously, tell me that these two women are going to Europe, in 1937, and are going to be on that tragic flight of the Hindenburg for their return journey, and I’m hooked. (Can you blame me? One of the finest historical fiction books I ever read was “Flight of Dreams” by Ariel Lawhon, which is a fictional account of the flight of the Hindenburg.) Obviously, I was going to request this ARC no matter what it was about, because this is the fourth book written by the team of Heath Webb and Hazel Gaynor, and I’ve been hooked on their collaboration since the start (I was already a fan of Webb’s work, and I’ve since become a fan of Gaynor’s as well – but I’ve yet to get to most of her back-list).
I am very pleased to say that this book is probably their best yet. Mind you, there were a few things that kept me from giving this a full 5/5 stars, but I’m sure that they won’t bother most other readers. I think the one thing that I was hoping for that I didn’t get was more of the Hindenburg flight. I’m guessing that when it came to writing that part, H-Team (as I call them), the virus was getting to them, and with a deadline looming, that bit seemed a bit rushed. I also felt that this spilled over to the ending in general, even though I didn’t mind one romantic relationship being left a bit in the air. In fact, that made much more sense than having two “happily ever after” conclusions for both sisters. (As my regular readers know, I appreciate a realistic ending to a book, and I don’t need to be spoon fed an overview of how the characters’ lives turned out after the last page. That’s what I have an imagination for!) Also, I’m not totally sure we needed all of the Nellie Bly references, but they didn’t really detract all that much from the narrative.
Now, it just might be me, but this book felt even more cohesive than the previous novels. Again, the H-Team used alternating points of view, switching mostly between Clara and Madeline (or Maddie, as she prefers to be called), with a few chapters where their grandmother Violet comes through. While previously, I thought I knew (but wasn’t terribly sure) who was writing which character; with this book, I really couldn’t tell you which character was written by which one of the team. That’s what I mean by cohesive, and it felt like one author writing all of the stories. If they had chosen to collaborate and write under a single pen name, I don’t think they could have done a better job. Each of the characters were drawn and developed evenly, and we quickly grew to sympathize with all of them. Mind you, I have to say that it took me a touch longer to warm up to Clara, but that makes sense, because she’s the stuffier of the two sisters. Maddie is such a spunky corker that she’s lovable from the get-go, and you can’t help love Violet as well.
I should also mention that it was a bit of a relief to read a book set between the two world wars, since there seems to be so many WWII novels out there these days (some of which border on what is getting to be known as “Holocaust Porn”). However, it was also good that the H-Team didn’t ignore the rise of Nazism and the anti-Semitic sentiments that were happening in Europe at the time. All told, I truly enjoyed reading this novel, and it only reaffirmed my love and admiration for the H-Team’s work. Due to my tiny niggles, I believe this book really deserves 4.75 stars out of 5, but I’ll round it up to 5/5 (as usual), and highly recommend it to all lovers of women’s historical fiction.
4.75 rounded up to
William Morrow – Harper Collins released “Three Words for Goodbye” by Heather Webb and Hazel Gaynor on July 27, 2021. This book is/will be available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), Foyles, Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery, Walmart (Kobo) US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, Booksamillion.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via Edelweiss.
This novel qualifies for the following reading challenges: New Release Challenge (#29), Historical Fiction Reading Challenge (#21), 20 Books of Summer 21 (#12), Big Book Summer Reading Challenge (#2).