July 1940. Eleven-year-old Lydia walks through a village in rural Suffolk on a hot day. The shops and houses are empty, windows boarded up and sandbags green with mildew, the village seemingly deserted. She strikes off down a country lane through the salt marshes to a large Edwardian house - the house she grew up in. Lydia finds it empty too, the windows covered in black-out blinds. Her family has gone.
Late that night he comes, a solider, gun in hand and heralding a full-blown German invasion, There are, he explains to her, certain rules she must now abide by. He won't hurt Lydia, but she cannot leave the house.
Is he telling the truth? What is he looking for? Why is he so familiar? And how does he already know Lydia's name? Eerie, thrilling and heartbreaking, The Dynamite Room evokes the great tradition of war classics yet achieves a strikingly original and contemporary resonance. Hypnotically compelling, it explores, in the most extreme of circumstances, the bonds we share that make us human.
My immediate reaction to this book was that I was unsure about it. Now having taken time away from it I am still not sure how I feel about this book.
It starts of promisingly with Lydia returning home to a deserted town and over the course of a few days we are introduced to her backstory. She then finds a solider (Heiden) in her home who knows her name. As with Lydia, his back story is also told in flashback. I think this is part of what troubles me about this book, we are mid conversation or mid action and then suddenly the action ceases and a bit of unrelated back story is revealed.
It was not until about 60% that the two stories converge and we learn how Heiden is connected to Lydia and the additional connection to the novel’s title.
There was one part of the novel that really did turn this reader off and that was the sexualisation of Lydia. I sort of understand her motivations for it but why does have to be in there at all? Is it just me that thinks children should be children for a long as possible. Societal demands ensure that children become adults too soon. Instead we should allow them to develop much needed skills in a loving caring environment, without these skills the world would turn into anarchy.
Much of the story is inferred rather than spelling the story out. The novel is intense and compelling but the characters did not fully engage this reader and if I was not been a compulsive book finishers this would have ended up on my ‘did not finish’ pile.
There was too much of this novel that did not really work and many stands that needed fleshing out. The suspense such as it was merely fizzled, and this reader thought the ending was a huge let down. In short this reader was disappointed in this rather dull, overly long novel.
Full Disclosure: ARC received from Netgalley for an honest review.
I rated this 2 stars on Netgalley and 'It was OK' On Amazon (3 stars) and Goodreads (2 stars).