Lissa Evans‘s Their Finest is a funny and engaging look at the world of World War II London.
A bit about the book:
It is 1940. France has fallen, and only a narrow strip of sea lies between Great Britain and invasion. The war could go either way and everyone must do their bit. Young copy writer Catrin Cole is drafted into the Ministry of Information to help “write women” into propaganda films—something that the men aren’t very good at.
She is quickly seconded to the Ministry’s latest endeavor: a heart-warming tale of bravery and rescue at Dunkirk. It’s all completely fabricated, of course, but what does that matter when the nation’s morale is at stake? Since call-up has stripped the industry of its brightest and best, it is the callow, the jaded and the utterly unsuitable who must make up the numbers: Ambrose Hilliard, third most popular British film-star of 1924; Edith Beadmore, Madame Tussauds wardrobe assistant turned costumier; and Arthur Frith, whose peacetime job as a catering manager has not really prepared him for his sudden, unexpected elevation to Special Military Advisor.
Now in a serious world, in a nation under siege, they must all swallow their mutual distaste, ill-will, and mistrust to unite for the common good, for King and Country, and—in one case—for better or worse….
Evans opens a door into the film industry (at least the one back in the 1940s) with her portrayals of actors and those behind the scenes. Her descriptions are full of detail not only of movie making, but also of life in a war-torn city. The chaos of war in London is mirrored on the movie set.
Evans’s portrayal of the main characters is insightful and appealing. I especially like Ambrose Hilliard who is clueless that time has passed him by – he still thinks he can be a leading man even though he is older and not what the studios are looking for. Catrin is a woman finding her way in a new society where women are gaining more importance and influence due to the men serving in the armed forces. Her transformation is wonderful to see.
The plot is light. It has a few twists that keeps the reader interested. A good, quick read.