Sigh. This is one of those wonderfully depressing stories that leaves you crying at 3 am because you can’t put it down. I read it purely on a whim because it was advertised as a “Big Library Read Book” this month on my library’s ebook site (a book which isn’t limited in checkouts by the number of copies the library owns). It’s one I highly recommend.
It’s set in 1918, during the last months of WWI and the Spanish Influenza pandemic. Lot’s of death, lots of sorrow. And yet, finishing it has left me hopeful rather than depressed, which is how the best books are (in my opinion).
The last book I read on Spiritualism was set in WWII Britain (The Strange Case of Hellish Nell) so we know that this phenomenon (I mean the act of believing in spirits) lasted a long time. This book paints a very realistic view of life during this period–no white washing.
“On March 23, 1944, as the allied forces prepared for D-Day, Britain’s most famous psychic, Helen Duncan-“Nell” to her family-stood in the dock of Britain’s highest criminal court accused of…witchcraft. It was a trial so bizarre Winston Churchill grumbled, “Why all this tomfoolery?” But the Prime Minister was not privy to the Military Intelligence agenda fueling the prosecution: Duncan’s séances were accurately revealing top-secret British ship movements. The authorities wanted “Hellish Nell” silenced. Using diaries, personal papers, interviews, and declassified documents, Nina Shandler resurrects this strange courtroom episode and the shadowy world of wartime secrets and psychics. Sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, The Strange Case of Hellish Nell is a true crime tale laced with supernatural phenomena and wartime intrigue.”
“Loose Lips Sink Ships.” Did Helen Duncan really spill WWII secrets with help from the dead? If nothing else, an interesting case study on how far government is allowed to go to protect secrets during wartime.
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