During WW1, in France helping her Uncle, who is a scientist, 19 year old Olwen Howell-Jones finds a letter from another scientist containing what he says to be a Love Charm which will help it’s wearer find the person they are meant for. She immediately sets out to test the Charm on four people in the hotel: Mr. Brown a hapless but kind soldier, Mrs. Cartwright, a middle aged writer and single mother, Miss Walsh, a sheltered single women in her 30s, and of course, herself. The book chronicles the various couples the charm brings together.
I really liked this book.The beginning of this book reminded me a lot of Five Children and It (which was in fact written about 19 years earlier). It has the same Edwardian period fantasy – I guess it would now be called urban fantasy? – feel. A chatty omniscient narrator who sometimes lapses into I or Me, and has a habit of offering comments and asides to the readers, which are often poking good-natured fun at the characters. The author also has a habit of referring to people in epitaphs – at least 50% of the time the Heroine, Olwen is referred to as ‘Little Olwen’. Another character is referred to as The Sunburst Girl more often than by her name, etc etc. The author has a knack for voices, almost every character speaks in a particular way so that it’s possible to tell whose speaking without any dialogue tags – not in an annoying way, but in a way that fits the character wonderfully. One character speaks with a Scotch accent, which is carried onto the narration during a chapter focusing on him and his thoughts. The narrative also often goes on tangents to let one character recount something that happened to them – how they met their fiancée, or what they did during the air raid etc. In fact, there are several chapters solely about a separate set of characters, to the extent that I’m not even sure who is really the Main Character. But again, this feels like a good thing – I definitely care about all the characters. It’s really funny, and cute and heartwarming. The Main (?) Hero is kind of an arrogant asshole but the Heroine doesn’t let him off the hook – she stands up to him. Making this Trope Older Than You Think. The war bits were also very well done and poignant.