Monday, February 13, 2023

Guest Book Review: Once Upon a Wardrobe

By Matt Meistrich

Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan is a wonderful, inspiring but ultimately heartbreaking and gut wrenching book about Meg Devonshire, her family and acquaintances in 1950 England. Meg herself is treading an unprecedented path for women of her time, having recently started to study math and physics at Oxford. She is dealing with the pressures and prejudices facing women in the field at the time, along with the additional burden of knowing that her only sibling, her beloved eight year old brother George, is terminally ill. George has major heart problems, which realistically were untreatable by medical technology at the time. Meg knows his time is limited and is weighed down by the impact of seeing his illness, isolation and the impact it has on her family.  She is also clearly aware George’s time is very limited, and the book includes many emotionally devastating moments where he suffers through medical emergencies, setbacks and hospitalizations with unknown results making us better understand the rollercoaster Meg is experiencing.

Many of the characters in the book are also still dealing with the traumas inflicted on them by World War II, with many still also clearly affected by the impact of World War I. Her parents and other older characters in the book are still dealing with memories of ‘The Blitz’, suffering and sacrifices that were made on battlefields, both at home and abroad, and are dealing with the losses of loved ones. Like so many similar situations, those affected by the war’s trauma only begin to realize and acknowledge it years later. Meg embodies the ‘British stiff upper lip’ stoicism throughout all of her trials, galanty maintaining her trying schoolwork, commitment to George and to helping her parents while he is declining. The title is derived from one of Meg’s regular references and emotional escapes with George, away from his ailment. 

However, we ultimately know the awful ending that awaits Meg and her family, and the book handles it magnificently. Patti Callahan incorporates it into an epilogue of sorts, making the unambiguous mention of George’s death a reference to hope, love and strength rather than despair and regret. Meg Devonshire describes George’s death in the past tense, contrasting it with her marriage and giving birth to a son who is also named George, as an experience of redemption. This is a wonderful and uplifting book that cannot be recommended highly enough, as it shows how good can come from loss and despair.

Thanks to Wunderkind PR for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Matt Meistrich is a New Jersey native, a graduate of Rutgers The State University of NJ, a construction estimator by trade. Since all of those characteristics might be a negative stereotype or redundancy about the Garden State, don't be surprised that he is also now a guest blogger/ reviewer for Chick Lit Central, and that he recently moved to the Chicago area. He also appreciates the diversion CLC's books provide from his regular reading list of construction blueprints and car and airplane magazines.

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