Dead to Me by Lesley Pearse

Dead to Me is a part historical fiction novel that plays off in WWII England and covers a variety of themes: war, crime, romance, but most of all, friendship. Two girls, Ruby and Verity, comes from two different social spectrums who starts a friendship when they both happen onto a crime scene. Verity comes from a wealthy family and Ruby comes from a single parent home. Despite their difference in financial standing, they have one thing in common: they both come from unhappy homes. For a long time Verity has felt animosity towards her coming from her father and Ruby’s mother is a prostitute and alcoholic who leaves Ruby to fend for herself, which leads her to steal in order to have a meal a day.

However, over the course of time, their circumstances change. Verity’s abusive father (who has sexually abused and beaten her during her early teens) are found guilty of embezzlement and runs off, leaving her and her mother to seek refuge with her estranged aunt. Ruby is taken from her mother and placed in a foster home. Verity finds herself living in poverty as war is about to start and Ruby finally gets the caring home and love she surely deserves.

Their friendship grows in intensity, there is nothing the two won’t share with each other, but with all friendships there is a breaking point when the one betrays the other, even if it’s for all the right reasons. Which happens when Verity has to betray Ruby’s trust in order to save her life, however Ruby doesn’t want to understand Verity’s reasoning and breaks up the friendship with the words “You’re dead to me”.

From here we follow their lives as they live it separately. From falling in love for the first time, living during and through war and having their hearts broken. Luckily, the two find their way back to each other, but disaster strikes. Disaster coming in the form of Verity’s father, who beat her and left her to die, but Ruby saves her life. Verity goes off to live with Ruby and her foster mother and the two finally has a chance to mend their friendship.

Dead to Me is a heartwarming tale of friendship and endurance. The two main characters are well developed, we follow them from pre-teen to adulthood, but are also taken on their journey through all emotional stages of their lives, seeing them and their friendship grow. It’s a celebration of female friendship.

This is the first Lesley Pearse novel I’ve read and I happen to have met the author who was in South Africa for the launch of this book and had my book signed.

I’ve also been to her talks at the annual Literary Festival in Franschoek and both times I’ve found Lesley to be an absolute joy. She is a remarkable woman who is so funny, but most of all, I think she is a good writer and I can’t wait to read her next book, The Woman in the Wood.

The first panel ('On being a bookclub writer') was wonderful! #flf2017 #franschoekliteraryfestival

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Disclaimer: I received this book from Penguin Random House for review consideration.

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