Written in a classically English Suspense style (think Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier), The Girl Without a Name by Suzanne Goldring is a literary labyrinth that will surprise you, turn after turn, and lead you to a totally unexpected conclusion. Told as two concurrently unfolding stories that begin with Billie’s discovery of a worn, black and white snap shot of a young girl in her widowed and retired father’s wallet after a stroke leaves him hospitalized and repeatedly saying, what sounds like “Ruby”. The story then jumps back to England in the 1940s when children from larger cities were sent to the countryside and subsidized to live with rural families as a way to escape the near constant German bombings during WWII. Ruby and Stevie are two of those children, schoolmates who develop a deep friendship and affection away from London. Their experiences in these evacuee homes differ drastically and are the catalysts to many of their views and actions after the war. When circumstances beyond their control push them back to London, they lose contact until an unexpected meeting, as young adults, ignites into a tragic romance.
Suzanne Goldring has spun an entrancing and captivating drama that catches the essence and nuances of Ruby’s adolescent mind during the great war and her subsequent development into a young lady, whose heart has loyally belonged to Stevie all those years. Their significantly different experiences during the war and after, one sheltered and one exposed to great trauma and horrors, greatly impacts their outlooks and behaviors going forward, leading to a ripple effect that will eventually tear them apart. I was fascinated by Suzanne’s ability to deftly blur the lines between good and bad in establishing who the ultimate victim ended up being. You cannot help but vacillate your support between Ruby and Stevie the more you come to know each character and what they have experienced.
The Girl Without a Name is a fabulously thought out and written drama that will keep you in suspense until the very end. Suzanne’s writing style and attention to detail makes the story flow effortlessly from page to page and between the two past and present perspectives. The historical details give the story great authenticity and the experiences of Ruby and Stevie, and its impact on their lives and relationship, personalize the mystery. While there is not the happily ever ending, in the traditional sense, there is a definite sense of closure and poetic justice meted out in the end.