England, 31st August 1939: the world is on the brink of war. As Hitler prepares to invade Poland, thousands of children are evacuated from London to escape the impending Blitz. Torn from her mother, eight-year-old Anna Sands is relocated with other children to a large Yorkshire estate which has been opened up to evacuees by Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton, an enigmatic childless couple. Soon Anna gets drawn into their unhappy relationship, seeing things that are not meant for her eyes - and finding herself part-witness and part-accomplice to a love affair, with tragic consequences. A story of love, loss and complicated loyalties, combining a sweeping narrative with subtle psychological observation, The Very Thought of You is a haunting and memorable debut- Synopsis from Goodreads
The Very Thought of You is a story about love, but not the happily ever after, unending passion, sunshine and rainbows type of love. There is a taste of first love and all the lovely things that come with it. However, most of the book deals with what comes after and how love survives distance and separation, both physical and emotional. In fact, I found separation to be the major theme of the book. Anna is only eight years old when her mother sends her to the country for school in order to get Anna out of London and away from the impending threat of bombings. Her father is away at war, leaving her mother, Roberta, alone in London.
Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton want nothing more than a child of their own but when that doesn't happen, they convert their large home into a school for the evacuated children. Their marriage is crumbling as both struggle with feelings of inadequacy, Thomas with his disability and Elizabeth with her inability to conceive. During Anna's stay at their house, she finds herself unwittingly involved in the disintegration of their marriage and it had lasting effects on the rest of her life.
I've read quite a few WWII era novels lately but I found this one to be refreshingly different. The war is there but it's almost in the background, not in the forefront as it usually is. This story is most definitely not about the war, it just happens to take place during the war and I enjoyed the slightly different take on it. I thought it was an enjoyable book, fairly engrossing, but boy, the ending sure was a bit of a downer. Not for those looking for a clear resolution or happy ending but a good story nonetheless.