Sunday, November 15, 2020

The Flame Within by Liz Harris, an English family saga set between the wars

The pages turn swiftly in The Flame Within, second in Liz Harris’s Linford Saga. Rather than a sequel to The Dark Horizon, it works as a companion volume, revealing the full story of a secondary character: Alice Foster Linford, aunt-by-marriage of the first book’s protagonists.

In the prologue, set in Belsize Park, London, in 1923, Alice takes a new position as companion to an elderly woman while debating how to win back her estranged husband, Thomas Linford, whom she had somehow wronged. The scene then reverts to 1904, with young Alice growing up in the small Lancashire town of Waterfoot. 

Wanting a future beyond mill or factory work, Alice aims to lose her local accent and improve her education. Life interferes with her plans, though, until her training with the British Red Cross, and the outbreak of war, introduce her to Thomas, youngest son of a prominent family of suburban London builders. After suffering injuries in France, Thomas, who uses a wheelchair and prosthetic leg, has difficulty adjusting to life at home. A patient, caring woman, Alice becomes worn down by her formerly cheerful husband’s moodiness and jealousy and the restrictions he imposes on her.

For readers of The Dark Horizon, some of the plot in the middle will be familiar, but the new angle enhances the earlier picture. (The book will also read well on its own.) Joseph Linford, head of the family firm, remains a daunting figure, but because he likes and approves of Alice, his nefarious side doesn’t emerge here. Harris deftly interweaves many social issues of the day, including how wartime trauma can affect a marriage, legal issues affecting women, and the difficulties of crossing class lines. Alice is a sympathetic heroine who makes realistic choices for a woman in her position. Without giving spoilers, the conclusion is very satisfying.

The Flame Within was published by Heywood Press in October, and I first reviewed it for November's Historical Novels Review.  If you missed reading The Dark Horizon, I posted a review last month. I'm curious to see who Liz Harris's next protagonist will be as the series continues.


  1. I enjoyed the book on its own. I liked the various topics handled in this story. All told well.

  2. Happy you enjoyed it too.