Friday, 8 January 2021

War's Last Dance by Julia Underwood

War's Last Dance by Julia Underwood
Published by Endeavour Press in August 2015.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Berlin, 1946. The war is over.

But there are still battles to be won before the players can pack up and go home. After five years apart Bill and Isabel are re-united in a devastated Berlin. Struggling to find a place for herself in the war-torn city, Isabel doesn't find it easy to fall back into a family routine with Bill. As they struggle to rediscover their love for each other they encounter unexpected dangers. 

Their four-year old daughter is mysteriously abducted, disappearing without a trace. No one knows where she has gone. Or why she has disappeared. Isabel must drawn on hidden strengths and loyalties as she throws herself into a desperate search for her daughter.

Will she manage to bring her family back together before it is too late? Or will Isabel have to build a new life for herself - rising like a phoenix out of the ashes of war?

War's Last Dance is a compelling drama of marriage, family and war. It is perfect for fans of Sebastian Faulks and William Boyd.

This review was first blogged on Stephanie Jane in April 2016.

Set at the end of the Second World War, Underwood's novel takes us into the heart of destroyed Berlin when a young English woman, Isabel, journeys to Germany to join her husband, Bill, who has been posted there to help oversee rebuilding efforts. Isabel and Bill married during the War after a brief engagement, but have hardly seen each other for years and he is a stranger to their four year old daughter, Penny. I enjoyed the first half of War's Last Dance. We see London in wartime - the camaraderie and deprivation, rationing and vegetables grown in every back garden. Isabel is portrayed as a strong woman and devoted mother, getting by as best she can with the help of her family. Her decision, once it is safe to do so, to follow Bill to Berlin and finally be together as a family is completely understandable and the lengthy train journey across Europe is well described.

Berlin is a shocking place. The destruction is far worse than London and we see people not only barely surviving in impossible circumstances, but hundreds more - refugees and displaced persons - swelling their numbers every day. Underwood describes this hell with sensitivity and I thought such a setting would be central to her story. However instead we take a weird turn into not-quite-thriller and not-quite-romance. Isabel becomes incapable of doing anything without leaning on a man and frequently abandons her daughter to maid Irma in order to gad about with new friend Zelda and potential romance John. It's no wonder that overworked and stressed out Bill is so easily exasperated with her! Penny is abducted in an flat unconvincing storyline that pivots on a miraculous teapot discovery and Isabel's unpracticed ability to accurately fire a gun. Turning the page reveals a six year gap and sudden swerve into Happily Ever After. WTF!

I was disappointed by the way War's Last Dance turned out. It starts pretty well, light but interesting, but if I had known where the tale would lead, I would probably have run at about the same time as the dog did.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Julia Underwood / Thrillers / Books from England


  1. Okay, the second half of the novel definitely takes a sudden turn and spirals into something completely unexpected. I don't blame you for not liking the second half as much as the first. I think this is going to be a miss for me...

    1. Yes, I enjoyed the first half, then it veered into a very different book!

  2. I'm a huge fan of stories from WWII and I like that the novel starts off light. I think I still would like to check it out, I mean as long as the sudden turn to the story doesn't include vampires and wolves -- coz that would be weird -- then I'm definitely interested.