Title: If I Were You
Author: Lynn Austin
Series: Prequel to The Wish Book Christmas
Major Themes: Identity, Mysteries, World War II
Synopsis: Five years ago, Eve Dawson stole the identity of her best friend, Audrey. Now Audrey has come to take back what is rightfully hers.
After reading The Wish Book Christmas, I knew I wanted to read the prequel. Although much of the story had been revealed in that book, I wanted to see first-hand how Eve Dawson and Audrey Clarkson got to the place they ended up in that book. And, not too much later, I found If I Were You available on Libby! When I finally had the time to read it, I borrowed it—and Mom and I read it at the same time. What a great story. Different from what I expected in some ways, but it had a depth to it that made me want to slow down and savor the story—and yet the story itself was so gripping that I wanted to keep going! I love it when books do that to you.
It’s 1950, Eve Dawson’s life is going pretty well. She’s finally in a comfortable, safe space—with loving grandparents to dote on her young son. Then, Audrey Clarkson shows up out of the blue, and the secret she’s been holding for five years starts to come unraveled. What started as simple deception—impersonating Audrey—is now a comfortable spiderweb, and with her livelihood and future threatened, Eve isn’t sure what she can do to fix things up.
Back in 1940, Eve and Audrey have been friends for years—although they lost touch with each other for a while. Though their lives were interconnected for several years—Eve’s mother working as lady’s maid for Audrey’s mother—their class differences made it impossible for them to keep up a close acquaintance as they grew older. But as World War II sweeps through Europe and London comes under attack, they band together again—this time two friends against a common foe, driving ambulances to help bomb victims. The war brings about other changes besides damaged buildings and broken hearts—the class system is falling apart. When Audrey falls in love with an American soldier, will she be able to marry him? And what about Eve and Audrey’s brother, whom she has loved from afar for a long time?
Filled with themes of truth and justice, learning to rely on God instead of ourselves, and doing what’s right even when it’s hard, If I Were You is a book I’m glad I didn’t miss. Although it has themes of romance, it’s more about two women and their friendship through the years. I couldn’t imagine being in either of their shoes, but seeing the war through both of their eyes was gripping and brought it to life in a way that I didn’t expect.
I was reminded of Chasing Shadows a little while reading this book; that one is Austin’s version of what happened in the Netherlands during the same war. It was quite different, of course, but both are a testament to the strength of human character, courage, and how faith in the Lord can bring us through the most difficult circumstances.
If you enjoy history and glimpses into the human heart, I’d recommend If I Were You. It’s one that I feel like will stay with me for a long time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I reread it sometime—it’s a good one!
WARNING: Throughout the story, there are war scenes—bombs exploding, buildings being blown apart, people being pulled out of the rubble, injuries, etc. Usually not a lot of description; just enough so you know what’s going on. The places I noted were in ch. 10, 12, 13, 15, 20 (this is the most descriptive one; people are badly hurt by a rocket), and people die in ch. 2, 13, and 24. Also throughout the book, there are multiple lies taking place, and an unmarried woman is pregnant out of wedlock (the baby’s father was a married man). In the prologue, a woman thinks about abortion briefly. Pregnancy is mentioned in ch. 23, and later in the chapter, someone is in labor. In ch. 25, women are stripped naked for a medical examination.
Swear is used in the prologue, ch. 2, 3, 5, and 23; hell or hellish is used several times to describe the war; goodness is used in ch. 8, 18, 21, 27, and 28; “thank heaven” or “for heaven’s sake” is used in ch. 10 and 17; geez is used in ch. 17; gosh is used in ch. 18; and “for pity’s sake” is used in ch. 3, 7, 10, 15, and 27.
There are kisses in ch. 5, 6, 8, 14, 19, and 20. Affairs are mentioned in ch. 5, 7, and 27. There is touching between unmarried people in ch. 6, 17, and 20. Several times, characters are tempted to sleep together—ch. 8, 14, 20 (inference here that it did happen), and another inference in ch. 21 that characters were having an affair (very vague wording). A man talks about getting drunk to forget in ch. 14. Someone talks about a friend being almost suicidal in ch. 17, and in ch. 24, there is an assumption that someone deliberately killed herself and another person in a car accident.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults