By: S.L. Roman
Publisher: One Elm Books, an imprint of Red Chair Press
Publication Date: August 1, 2024
Reviewed by: Tripti Kandari
Review Date: May 16, 2023
One Year, One Night, S.L Roman's maiden novel sets a scene of World War II through the eyes of 16-year-old Annie - a chronicle of teenage affairs of heart and melancholy manifestations of the woes of war.
As Annie watches the World War II national ceremony, stormy memories of the war's incredulous events from two decades ago hark back. While delving into past possessions at her wartime residence, Annie discovers her old journal misplaced in the disarray of the war. The account of this journal, through the eyes of a teenage girl, also resurrects the bittersweet tale of the past – a past of close and euphoric human connections and their lingering wounds.
As if the hard knocks of the global war on top of the presence of a priggish nosy aunt weren’t enough for Annie, the call-up of her father to war only adds to her anguish. Amid the monotony of life, the prospect of the arrival of dashing soldiers in the village Millside brings a glimmer for Annie and her peers. With love under scrutiny, an unraveling divide in her friendship with her dearest pal, Peg, just adds to Annie's uneasiness. And upon the arrival of little forlorn Ben in her life, one of the thousands of war evacuees, a harrowing image of the war's suffering appears in front of Annie, leaving bruises, not to be healed decades later.
One Year, One Night, reading like a personal journal, presents a narrative that is quick to read and fast-paced. And while not vivid, the novel provides comments on the social and political climate of the time. There is a sensitive exploration of the drive of a small town woman to break free from traditional norms. Annie's mother, and Suzie Bell, a showbiz hopeful, embody this ambition. The two characters approach their ambition in contrasting ways, creating ambivalence around the concept of ambition. The story also exposes government propaganda depicting an illusory picture of "Happy Children on a Happy Holiday." Little Ben becomes a microcosm of this war's anguish, his mental traumas eliciting veiled criticism of the government.
The historical romance based on an actual occurrence deals with the turmoil of the time, stressing the scrapes and happiness that people manage to find. And, while the story may benefit from further in-depth investigation through character and plot development, it's a strong debut offering for snappy historical romance buffs.
Quill says: Amidst teenagers' love entanglements with soldiers and a deeper nurturing bond with an evacuee, One Year, One Night conveys a striking realism of evacuation and its relentless ramifications.