“A marvelous work of historical fiction, beautifully crafted and inhabited by morally complex and fully realized characters... compelling, immersive, and utterly impossible to put down.” —Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker
Anna Karenina meets World War II, a novel of love, war, and the resilience of one woman's spirit
England, 1939: Julia Compton has a beautifully well-ordered life. Once a promising pianist, she now has a handsome husband, a young son she adores, and a housekeeper who takes care of her comfortable home. Then, on the eve of war, a film crew arrives in her coastal town. She falls in love.
The consequences are devastating. Penniless, denied access to her son, and completely unequipped to fend for herself, she finds herself adrift in wartime London with her lover, documentary filmmaker Dougie Birdsall. While Dougie seeks truth wherever he can find it, Julia finds herself lost. As the German invasion looms and bombs rain down on the city, she faces a choice—succumb to her fate, or fight to forge a new identity in the heat of war.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Elizabeth Wilhide is the author of Ashenden. Born in the United States, she has lived in Britain since 1967. She has two children and lives in south London.
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Excerpted from "If I Could Tell You"
Copyright © 2017 Elizabeth Wilhide.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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Reading Group Guide
1. Why does Wilhide begin If I Could Tell You with the scene of the bombing? What was your reaction? Did you understand what was happening?
2. The title of the novel is from a poem of the same name by W. H. Auden, a portion of which Wilhide includes as a preface to the book. Having read the novel, what is the significance of those three lines?
3. When her husband, Richard, discovers her affair, Julia loses everything. Do you believe Dougie is worth the sacrifice? Does Julia? Does her opinion change at any point in the novel?
4. Britain’s ‘stiff upper lip’ during the London Blitz was legendary and still informs the popular view of the British people. How do you think you would have behaved if you had been in Julia’s situation?
5. Julia repeatedly thinks to herself: ‘Protect my family.’ When does this phrase appear in the novel? What does she mean? In which ways does she or doesn’t she protect her family?
6. Mrs. Hoffmann tells Julia that her own husband was ‘not what you might call faithful, but dead loyal just the same’ (p. 288). What is the difference?
7. Julia’s friendships with other women in the novel are complicated and shift over the course of the story. Who are the key female figures? What is their influence on Julia?
8. Do you believe it’s possible to be monogamous for one’s entire life?
9. What does Julia learn about herself from her relationship with Dougie? What does he learn from her?
10. If you were to cast If I Could Tell You as a movie, who would you cast as Dougie and Julia?
11. Reread Julia and Dougie’s conversation in the final pages of the novel. What is Julia referring to in the final line when she thinks, ‘She had work to do’ (p. 309)?