#BookReview: Seven Days in May by Kim Izzo

War Era Historical

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For readers of Kate Williams, Beatriz Williams and Jennifer Robson, a captivating novel of love and resilience during the Great War, inspired by the author’s family history.

As the First World War rages in continental Europe, two New York heiresses, Sydney and Brooke Sinclair, are due to set sail for England. Brooke is engaged to marry impoverished aristocrat Edward Thorpe-Tracey, the future Lord Northbrook, in the wedding of the social calendar. Sydney has other adventures in mind; she is drawn to the burgeoning suffragette movement, which is a constant source of embarrassment to her proper sister. As international tempers flare, the German embassy releases a warning that any ships making the Atlantic crossing are at risk. Undaunted, Sydney and Brooke board the Lusitania for the seven-day voyage with Edward, not knowing that disaster lies ahead.

In London, Isabel Nelson, a young woman grateful to have escaped her blemished reputation in Oxford, has found employment at the British Admiralty in the mysterious Room 40. While she begins as a secretary, it isn’t long before her skills in codes and cyphers are called on, and she learns a devastating truth and the true cost of war.

As the days of the voyage pass, these four lives collide in a struggle for survival as the Lusitania meets its deadly fate.

If you’re one of those who can’t stand negative reviews, quit while you’re ahead and stop reading now. I don’t mean to be rude, but I didn’t enjoy the time I spent with Kim Izzo’s Seven Days in May and I’ve no intention of mincing my words to appease everyone who thinks negative commentary a waste of both time and energy.

The sinking of the Lusitania boasts an overwhelming degree of intrigue, but Izzo’s illustration of the ship’s final voyage lacks both dimension and depth. Izzo relies on a series of information dumps to relay facts about the voyage, but fails to recreate the spirit of its passengers or the ambiance of its accommodations. The research was obviously done, but atmospherically I found the novel lifeless and flat. I don’t mean to imply that Izzo didn’t care about the historic elements of the story, she did a fair amount of research, but in terms of storytelling, she exhibits a distinct preference for character drama over period detail.

Unfortunately, I found this emphasis misplaced as the entirety of the cast struck me as both cliched and predictable. I hate to be that reviewer, but stock characterizations don’t do it for me and Izzo failed to bring anything new to the table. A suffragette whose only flaw is getting into trouble for standing up for women’s rights? A self-righteous, marriage minded socialite? An inexplicably talented codebreaker with no experience who just happens to land a government job? An impoverished yet charming member of the aristocracy who is willing to trade his title for wealth? Give me a freaking break.

Finally, and I know this is petty, but I genuinely feel the story overburdened with competing plots. Sydney, Brooke, and Edward are united in that they are all passengers on the ship, but Isabel exists on the periphery of the disaster. Her position provides an avenue for Izzo to explore the military aspects of the story, but there’s virtually no cohesion between her story and that of the other leads.

Long story short, Seven Days in May didn’t work for me and I’d have a difficult time recommending it to other readers.

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: April 20, 2017

The men laughed but Isabel didn’t find it amusing. Sinking an unarmed schooner with a small civilian crew was so unnecessary. The Germans would have wanted to prevent the English getting the food supplies and she supposed on that level it was an enemy victory.