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Review by Suze
Isabel works in Room 40 for the British Admiralty during the First World War. What's being done there is top secret. She hopes nobody will find out about her past and her code breaking skills are giving her the second chance she needs. While trying to find out what the Germans are planning, Isabel discovers that war isn't fair at all. Some things never have a right outcome, no matter which side you choose to approach it from, it's a hard lesson that will leave a lasting impression.
Sydney's sister Brooke is engaged to an English aristocrat. Edward needs Brooke's fortune and Brooke wants his title. It's going to be a marriage of convenience. Sydney and Brooke travel to England together with Edward on the Lusitania. They've been warned the ship is at risk to be attacked, but nobody on board is really worried. Sydney and Brooke are constantly arguing. Sydney is a suffragette and Brooke is embarrassed by the behavior of her sister. While their relationship is becoming tenser with each passing hour, the two sisters and Edward have no idea they're about to face a grave danger. Will they survive?
Seven Days in May is an impressive story. I was immediately intrigued because of the strong heroines, women who want to use their brains and are fighting for equal rights. This made me instantly like the story. Isabel has a past and she's trying to make sure her reputation in Room 40 won't be tarnished. She's smart and curious and always does more than what's being asked of her. Sydney doesn't care about what people think of her, she fights for what she believes in and she constantly tries to educate others. Brooke is a more traditional rich woman, but one with an iron will. When she wants something, she goes after it and doesn't let go until she has it. I loved how well Kim Izzo describes the personalities of her characters. She makes them come to life incredibly well and I was amazed by their strength and confidence.
Knowing what would happen to the Lusitania kept me on the edge of my seat. Kim Izzo starts with regular problems, friendships and relationships and slowly builds up the tension. The more pages I turned the faster I wanted to read. I was fascinated and the story gripped me, maybe even more since I knew what was coming, but not exactly how it would happen. Kim Izzo has written a fantastic story, it's interesting and informative. She combines this with beautiful sentences and a nerve-racking adrenaline rush. I highly recommend Seven Days in May, I absolutely loved this compelling and moving story.
If you love well written historical fiction and are interested in books about the First World War Seven Days In May is an absolute must-read.
About Kim Izzo
is an author, screenwriter and journalist living in Toronto. She is the 2016 winner of the prestigious HUMANITAS Prize: New Voices and the 2016 Telefilm Canada New Voices award. Kim is the author of two romantic comedy novels, The Jane Austen Marriage Manual, (which has been optioned for film), and My Life in Black and White. She is also the co-author of two etiquette books, The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Decorum and The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Grace Under Pressure. As an etiquette expert, Kim has made numerous television appearances, including Oprah! and The Today Show.
Kim’s great-grandfather sailed on the Lusitania and lived to tell the tale and inspire the novel.
Creating a Story from History
My third novel, Seven Days in May, is historical fiction and at its core tells the story of the RMS Lusitania’s final voyage before being torpedoed by the Germans on May 7, 1915.
As an author you have to make many decisions when you plan and outline a novel. For me, as this was my first historical novel, I had to weigh different approaches to my storytelling in order to convey as many facets of the ship’s doomed voyage as possible.
From my perspective there were three main prongs or roads to weave together. The story of the passengers on the Lusitania, who came from the wealthiest and poorest factions of society were one. Much like the Titanic, there were three classes, first, second and third, and the crew. Two of its most illustrious first class passengers were American millionaire Alfred Vanderbilt and Broadway producer Charles Frohman – both perished. Englishman Walter Dawson traveled in third – he was my great-grandfather and the inspiration for my taken on this subject. He survived. It was important to me to convey the first and third class passengers with the same weight and compassion.
The second road to explore was what was happening on dry land in London in Room 40, which was the British Admiralty’s secret war room. If you’ve seen the film The Imitation Game you get the idea only the code-breakers in Room 40 came about two decades earlier and were the beginning of modern concept of espionage. What the Admiralty knew about the German submarines – positions, targets, orders – and when they knew it is one of the enduring mysteries of the Lusitania. Conspiracy theorists have had a field day ever since the ship was sunk. Many believed that the Admiralty purposely allowed the Lusitania to sail into U-Boat infested waters to be destroyed and that the subsequent loss of American lives would draw the United States into the conflict. Winston Churchill, then only 40, was the First Lord of the Admiralty and it was fascinating to write about him before he became the world’s hero in the Second World War.
The third road is alas, also the road not taken by me, that of the perspective of the U-Boat 20 commander, Captain Walther Schwieger. He and his crew “hunted” the Irish Sea and sunk other smaller ships in the days leading up to the crucial moment of May 7. As the Lusitania entered the U-20’s crosshairs Schwieger gave the order to fire one torpedo. He then watched the ensuing chaos through his periscope. Later in his diary he wrote the following; “Many people must have lost their heads; several boats loaded with people rushed downward, struck the water bow or stern first and filled at once. . . . The ship blew off steam; at the bow the name “Lusitania” in golden letters was visible. The funnels were painted black; stern flag not in place. It was running 20 nautical miles. Since it seemed as if the steamer could only remain above water for a short time, went to 24 m. and ran toward the Sea. Nor could I have fired a second torpedo into this swarm of people who were trying to save themselves.”
I chose not to use Schwieger’s point of view because I felt it detracted from the larger two pieces and also because it would have slowed the narrative down too far. If you can imagine, not much happens in the course of submarine life and to try and create forward-driving plot over seven days was too arduous a task and I didn’t think the pay off was enough. Also, I couldn’t simply insert the U-20 for only a short few chapters. But it was a difficult decision!