Sunday, July 18, 2021

The Lengthening Shadow by Liz Harris, a saga set in England and Germany between the world wars

The title of this fast-paced and memorable saga, spanning from 1914 through 1934 in England and Germany, reflects the historical atmosphere: the darkness spreading across the land as the Nazis rise in power and influence, and its chilling effect on the people living beneath it.

Each volume in the Linford series focuses on different characters. In this third entry, the protagonists are Dorothy Linford, eldest daughter of Joseph, chairman of a prominent London-based building company; and her troubled younger cousin, Louisa. Although some material overlaps with the previous two books, they can all be read independently, and readers familiar with the saga will appreciate how Harris has avoided spoilers for The Dark Horizon (book one) and The Flame Within (book two) – this is very skillfully done!

Serving as a nurse with the Voluntary Aid Detachment during WWI, Dorothy meets and falls in love with one of her hospital patients, Franz Hartmann, a German internee. Disowned by her parents after their marriage, Dorothy moves with Franz to Germany, where they raise two children. Although she misses England dreadfully, she loves the friendliness and religious amity in their small town, Rundheim.

Through the experiences of the Hartmanns and their neighbors, the novel shows the subtle and, later, overt pressures that ordinary German citizens felt to support Hitler, even against their better judgment. One scene set in 1933, where the view from a mountain hike sweeps from the beauteous natural backdrop to the swastika flags flying from windows below, evokes an unsettling contrast.

As her worry and fear grow, Dorothy has painful decisions to make. Back in England, Louisa, a surly teenager, must reassess her priorities after a major wrongdoing. The characters realistically grow and change, and readers will turn the pages eagerly, hoping for optimistic endings for them all.

The Lengthening Shadow was published by Heywood Press in 2021; I reviewed it for May's Historical Novels Review. This is the third and last book in the Linford series.  The author's next historical novel, The Darjeeling Inheritance, out in October, is set in India in 1930.  I look forward to reading it.

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