Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
Finding Eadie is the third historical novel by Caroline Beecham. This author provides a well-researched backdrop for her stories. In this case, it is World War Two in London and focusses on how many of those left behind struggled to carry on their normal lives.
This is not a story about the many young men who lost their lives during the war, although many of those who belong in this storyline have lost loved ones this way. The story is about how industries struggled to survive when needed resources were requisitioned for the war effort.
The story involves the staff of Partridge Press. The London office is run by one of two brothers and the business is struggling to provide reading matter for the troops and many others who have increased their desire to read during these worrying times. The main office in America is run by the other brother where the business is not affected so badly. Theo Bloom, an employee in the American office who is engaged to his employer’s daughter, is sent to London to form an assessment of the conditions there.
Beecham provides characters who are all affected in different ways by the conditions in which they find themselves and by their ingrained values and beliefs. Alice, a creative employee of the London office, soon finds that her beliefs and those of her mother are vastly separated, leading to the primary focus of Finding Eadie. The author also imbues the two brothers with different personality traits and the same could probably be said for the two main female characters on either side of the Atlantic to whom Theo is drawn.
Alice is held in high esteem by her work colleagues for her instinct and acutely attuned emotional intelligence (230), yet throughout this story people are forever asking her if she is okay. At one stage she disappears only to return later but in a very distracted state. She finds it difficult to ‘take control of her emotions instead of one minute thinking one way and the next moment the reverse’ (216). This does not sound like an admirable main character and yet the reader is not frustrated by her or think this character weak.
Wartime conditions provide fertile ground for those who wish to exploit the situation but there are also those who are determined to root out these elements. This book highlights some of these activities and the dangers individuals are prepared to experience in the pursuit of their goal. The tension and drama brought about by these activities are cleverly balanced with humour especially around the tales emanating from the London Zoo. The scenarios mentioned in this book are based on the reality of the time.
Caroline Beecham obviously enjoys history and searching out some of the lesser known aspects of what occurred in the past which she then shares with her readers. These are usually the things which affected individuals rather than the masses and hence often get lost to the general history. I think this is what makes the characters more personal to the reader.
This is not a gloomy story. It is a love story on several levels. It is also a reminder to look out for those nearest and dearest to us. Alice needed help, although she did not ask for it. Theo ‘cursed himself for not returning sooner- and the others for not recognising Alice’s cries for help – because now it had come to this and she was in real danger’ (324).
Caroline Beecham has worked in documentary, film and drama and skills learned in these areas have helped her write about lesser known histories and some of the pioneering women who have helped bring about change particularly for women.
For me this book was full of humanity. The characters were real, though their actions were sometimes confronting, the friendships were strong, and business decisions were made based on personal beliefs and conditions at the time.
I found Finding Eadie to be an enjoyable read as well as an educational one.
By Caroline Beecham
Allen & Unwin