by Lynn Austin
“Eve sighed and passed her hand over her face. ‘Listen, we can figure out a way for you to get a new start here. There are plenty of nice towns were you can live. You can have all of the Barretts’ money – ‘
‘I don’t want money! I’ve had money all my life and it never provided what I needed the most. Or what my son needs. We want a family, Eve. The one you’ve stolen from us.’
‘You threw it away!’
‘Yes! Because I was grieving! But that still didn’t give you the right to take it!'”
Ratings & Reviews
Book Grade: A
Historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine, so perhaps I was easily hooked, but from the beginning, I found If I Were You to be an absolute page-turner. Eve and Audrey are polar opposites, but forge a bond in spite of their differences that is tested by social class, war, and, eventually, deceit. Living in post-WWI England, Audrey is used to the finer things while Eve, the daughter of Audrey’s mother’s maid, is used to a rougher life. She lost her father to the war and is no stranger to tragedy. As their friendship develops, the two challenge each other in unexpected ways. When WWII begins, the girls find themselves drawn to the wartime efforts, and willingly go against stereotypes and expectations to do what they feel is right.
In spite of the losses both suffer during the war, they become determined to maintain their friendship. As the war draws to a close, though, Audrey who had wed an American soldier seems to be drifting away from Eve who finds herself alone in an uncertain situation. The choice to adopt the life that Audrey discards is not out of malice, but desperation. Thus, when Audrey appears at Eve’s doorstep one day, a rush of memories comes flooding in and causes both women to question their choices and their friendship.
I loved how naturally the story flowed – it is filled with historical details and thoughtful touches, but the whole time I was on my toes trying to figure out the little secrets hidden within. If I Were You focuses on the brave women of WWII and the sacrifices they made during the war effort, but also focuses on the question of how well we can really know anyone. While Eve’s deception is front and center in this story, it is hard not to feel empathy for both women as they watch the social hierarchy, London landmarks, and family bonds that they knew crumble around them during the war. I so appreciated the small details that made this story historically enlightening and feel that it is so much more than a standard tale of friendship.
Movie Rating: PG
Overall, this book is suitable for all YA fans. It has no swearing, no details of graphic violence, and no steamy scenes. There is, however, the underlying story that Eve becomes pregnant at the end of war and as an unmarried woman, there is a bit of scandal associated with that. Austin is careful to insert the key plot points, but does not elaborate in any way. While adultery is an underlying theme among a few characters, there is a great deal of repentance for Eve’s actions and toward the latter half of the book, her frank discussions of religion, faith, and morality come into play. This book does talk about faith and God throughout, but that aspect of the friendship is subdued until later in the novel when both women come to terms with the impact of Eve’s deception. This book is predominantly a historical fiction novel and stays true to attitudes of the 1940s toward gender roles, faith, and social class while also featuring strong women who are willing to buck the trend to do what is right. Although some readers might find that the moral reflections at the end are a bit overbearing, I found them to be well-suited for the era and reflect the thoughts of so many war survivors who both questioned and relied on their faith.
Would I Buy This for My Library: Yes
This book is captivating and compelling and a perfect read for historical fiction fans. It has no content that I would worry about my students reading (unlike equally compelling stories like The Alice Network which is fraught with mature content). While there are messages of faith and morality, the are no more prominent than many of the other books on my library shelf and by no means dominate the story. Furthermore, the friendship that forms between the girls begins at a young age and follows Eve and Audrey for years in a way that many of my young female readers will be able to relate to.
Eve and Audrey are best friends from different worlds: Audrey is the daughter of a wealthy aristocrat; Eve is the scullery maid in Audrey’s mansion. Despite their different lives, the two become fast friends and stay connected over the years – through the aftermath of WWI and the start of WWII. Together they are stronger and encourage each other to be better, even volunteering for military service to help those suffering in London.
After many years together – through ups and downs, loss and growth – the two part ways after the end of the war. Both have admirably adjusted to post-blitz life and are new mothers determined to do what is best for their young sons, but they handle the struggles of war very differently. After learning that her husband has been killed, Audrey becomes determined to make a life for her son in her childhood manor in England. She forgoes the offer to stay with the in-laws that she has never met, rejecting any home other than what she has known. Seizing the opportunity, Eve claims to be Audrey and heads to America where she makes a new life for herself, living as her aristocratic friend. Life goes on without interruption until one day Audrey shows up at Eve’s in-laws’ house in America and realizes that her friend has betrayed her.
With compelling historical details, reverberating moral questions, and a tightly woven story of friendship, If I Were You is a wholly captivating read. How do you forgive someone who has taken everything that is yours and how do you build a life out of nothing. From the award-winning author, Lynn Austin, If I Were You is a well-researched story with remarkable characters who test the limits of friendship and loyalty.
Book Talk Questions:
- Describe Eve and Audrey’s personalities. What are their priorities and fears?
- What does Eve like about Alfie, but what does she come to realize about Alfie?
- Eve and Audrey face multiple challenges and trials during the war. Which of their actions do you believe was the most heroic and why?
- When does Audrey realize who Harry’s father is? What does she tell Eve?
- Who suspected Eve’s identity and why did they suspect it? What does Eve do to resolve her situation with Audrey?
- Where does the title come from? How does it reflect the thinking of both Eve and Audrey?
A Perfect Read for Fans Of…
- While We’re Far Apart by Lynn Austin
- Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
- Memories of Glass by Melanie Dobson