ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – The Wartime Nanny by Lizzie Page
Today I’m sharing my thoughts about The Wartime Nanny by Lizzie Page, one of my favourite authors. The book is my own purchase.
The Nazis are everywhere now. We must leave Vienna. It might be that soon our letters won’t get out anymore. Can you help, dear sister? Please, ask for us. Send news, and quickly. Please.
London, 1938. Sixteen-year-old Natalie Leeman takes the heart-breaking decision to leave her family behind in Vienna and travel to England to join her cousin Leah in service. Natalie is placed with a wealthy suburban family, the Caplins, as a nanny to their energetic six-year-old.
At first, Natalie is delighted by the huge house and beautiful gardens, but things aren’t as perfect as they seem. While Natalie dotes on their child, she is increasingly wary of Mr Caplin, whose gruff manner and fascist politics scare her. And then there are those still waiting at home – Mama and her two sisters, as well as a blossoming romance with her English tutor that had only just begun.
But when Vienna falls under Nazi rule, Natalie begins to fear for her family, especially her vivacious, tomboy little sister Libby. Then rumours of a possible escape route from mainland Europe called the kindertransport begin to swirl – can Natalie help her family escape the Nazis before it’s too late?
A heartbreaking wartime novel – emotional and unforgettable. Perfect for fans of The Alice Network, The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Before We Were Yours.
I’m a huge fan of Lizzie Page’s gorgeous historical stories and I’m kicking myself because I’ve had The Wartime Nanny sat on my shelves for far too long. I completely adored this wonderful tale.
The nanny in question is Natalie Leeman. Aged 16 she travels from her home in Vienna to England to take up a position as a nanny to a young boy named Hugo. From the outset I loved Natalie and her endeavours to fit into English life. She knows that the weather is a safe subject and that there are several different ways to describe rain. It’s really hard to imagine how hard it must have been to leave her family at such a young age. Her mama is still in Austria along with her two sisters, Rachel and Libby, and Rachel’s husband, Leo. The year is 1936 and already the Nazi Party are on the rise. The Leeman family are Jewish and although the reader and many around Natalie know that she ‘got out’ at the right time, Natalie doesn’t realise just how fragile the situation there is.
My heart was breaking for Natalie and her family all the way through this book. She tries so hard to get them to safety in England. I won’t give anything away about whether she succeeds or not but it really left me feeling on a knife-edge and with tears brimming in my eyes many times. Yet, despite all of this, there’s a lovely wry humour to be found in this book, often through Natalie’s observances of the English, their phrases and behaviour. There is warmth in the writing and characters I really cared about.
This is a story that pays tribute to the 20,000 Jewish women who came from Germany and Austria to Britain to work as domestic servants between 1933 and 1939. I was thoroughly entranced by this moving and emotional story of domestic life in the run up to WWII.
Lizzie loves reading and writing historical fiction and although she enjoys most eras, it is the First World War that has captivated her. Lizzie finds it fascinating primarily because of the massive changes women went through during those very hard years.
Lizzie grew up in a seaside town in Essex then studied politics at University. After graduating, she travelled around the world, aimlessly, mostly teaching Estuary English to unsuspecting students in Paris and Tokyo.
An allergic cat-lover, she lives with husband, three children and cockapoo, Lenny, named after her much-loved late father.