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- Date Published: June 2, 2020
- Length: 464 pages
- Audio: 13 hours 35 minutes
- Genre: Historical fiction
- Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
- Content Notes: War, Grief, Death, Infidelity
Book Summary: If I Were You
If I Were You is an epic novel that tells the story of life in England during World War II through the lens of two women who are the same age, but polar opposites in every other way.
The book starts in the present, in 1950 in the United States, when widowed war bride Audrey Clarkson and her young son show up at the home of the parents of her deceased husband in Connecticut to find her old longtime friend Eve Dawson pretending to be her. The book then goes back and tells how they got to where they are and why.
The friendship between Audrey Clarkson and Eve Dawson began when they were both 12 years old. Audrey is the child of aristocrats and lives in the large manor house in the area known as Wellingford Hall. Eve was a child in the local village. Her mother is the lady’s maid to Audrey’s mother.
Audrey is shy and timid and afraid of her parents. Eve is gregarious, adventurous, and speaks her mind. Audrey is immediately drawn to her because even though her parents have all the money in the world, she doesn’t have any friends besides Audrey’s brother, Alfie. Audrey also admires Eve’s boldness and bravery.
The book then follows Audrey and Eve as they age and how they face the challenges that life brings for them in their very two different worlds while they are figuring out how to survive World War 2.
Their friendship is not perfectly harmonious. Sometimes they seem like they are as close as sisters, and sometimes they almost treat each other like strangers. There is quite a bit of tension between the two of them throughout the book because they are both envious of each other and fall into the trap of thinking that the other person has it better or easier.
The story shows what life is like in the wake of the war and during the war in London. When London is facing relentless bombardment and is under threat of Nazi invasion, Austin makes you feel like you are sitting in the bunkers with the characters.
This book shows the characters grappling with faith in God in the face of a very difficult and hopeless time in their lives. The two main characters each handle this very differently. I think Austin does a good job of incorporating issues of faith and the Christian faith specifically without it coming across as heavy-handed.
If I Were You is a beautiful story about forgiveness, redemption, bravery, friendship, and love. It is also a story of survival in one of the most challenging eras of history.
Despite the length of this book, I felt like the story flew by, and it had me engaged from start to finish.
Why I Read This Book
I love Christmas novels, and last year when I was searching around for good Christmas books to read, I picked up The Wish Book Christmas by Lynn Austin. It’s a book that had high reviews, and it sounded like an interesting story.
What impressed me the most about The Wish Book Christmas was the quality of the writing, and I fell in love with Audrey and Eve.
What I didn’t know when I started reading it is that it’s actually a sequel to this book. When I learned that there was a prequel, I knew I wanted to read it.
If you want to see what happens to Eve and Audrey and their boys after this story ends, definitely read The Wish Book Christmas!
What I Learned
When I read historical fiction, I like to take note of historical events I never knew about or aspects of historical events I knew very little about. Here are some that stood out to me:
- London. I feel pretty naive for saying this, but I never realized how devastated London was by the Nazis during World War 2. This novel does such an amazing job of showing that. I also didn’t realize how much the people who lived there lived in utter terror and faced constant danger.
- The Dunkirk Evacuation. I know there’s a movie named after this event, but I had no idea what it was until I read this book. (Now, I want to go watch that movie.)
- Women. I also never realized the role that women played in the war in England. One of my favorite parts of the books is when Audrey and Eve decide to become lorry drivers (ambulance drivers). The book mentions that Queen Elizabeth did this work during the war, too… something else I never knew.
- Class struggles. The class struggles were still fairly strong up until and even after World War 2.
- The Loss. Eve’s father died fighting in World War I. Something that occurred to me is that if Eve had been a boy, she would have fought in World War 2. That means that Eve’s mom would have lost a husband and a child to the two wars. I imagine this did happen to some women.
- Fans of historical fiction (especially if you love World War II historical fiction)
- Fans of Downton Abbey
There’s a lot about this book that totally gave me Downton Abbey feels. (Downton Abbey is one of my favorite TV shows of all time, so I loved this!) This is what it would be like if Downton Abbey included children from the front of the house and the back of the house that became friends.
(By contrast, the Crowleys are way better people than the Clarksons.)
Book Club Discussion Questions
- This is a story of contrasts. Start by comparing and contrasting and Eve and Audrey. How were they similar? How were they different? In what ways did these contrasts drive the story?
- In what way does the title “If I Were You” refer to Eve AND Audrey?
- One of the themes in this book is envy. Who envied who more? Did Eve envy Audrey more or did Audrey envy Eve more?
- Compare and contrast Eve’s mother and Audrey‘s mother. How were Eve’s and Audrey’s relationships with their respected mothers different and how were they similar?
- What’s something from the historical events in this book that you didn’t know before you read the book?
- How did Audrey change after she moved to London and went to finishing school?
- In what way did finishing school hurt Audrey and other girls like her more than it helped them?
- How did Eve change after she moved to London?
- Alfie told Eve he loved her. Do you think that Alfie truly loved Eve? Why or why not?
- In what way was the evacuation at Dunkirk a turning point for both Audrey and Eve?
- Granny Maude dies early on in the book, but in what way does she continue to be a character throughout the story?
- Why did Eve lose her faith, and how did she get it back? Why did Audrey’s faith grow while Eve’s faith weakened?
- One of the reasons Eve went to the United States was because she had dreams of a brighter future, and she was in search of a fresh start. But in what way did her past follow her there?
- Was moving to the U.S. and taking Audrey’s place really her best option?
- Do you think it was inevitable that Eve was going to get caught in her web of lies?
- Eve has a moral dilemma when she goes to meet Louis. Do you agree with Eve’s decision not to tell Louis about Harry?
- One of the themes in the book is the recurring image of the good shepherd. Read the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:3-7. In what way is this parable demonstrated in this book?
- Which of the characters did you relate to more? Audrey or Eve?
“You remember these words, Eve . . . . You may not have a father here on earth, but you have a heavenly father, and the Lord will always be your faithful shepherd. “