Not by Sight by Kate Breslin is set in England during WWI. Grace Mabry, daughter of a wealthy tea shop owner in London, is appalled at the seeming indifference of some upper-class men to the war in Europe. How can they ignore the war, not enlist, and continue gamble, drink, and party as if nothing were happening? She and her maid, Agnes, decide to crash an elegant costume ball to which they were not invited and hand out white feathers of cowardice to those dilettantes.
Arriving at the ball, Grace, costumed as Pandora with her box of woes, approaches Jack Benningham, heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, who typifies the young, able-bodied man who refuses to get involved in the War. As Grace’s own brother, Colin, is off fighting in the trenches, she does not understand this brand of indifference and lifestyle.
Grace has little idea of what her action begins. The chain of events proceeding from the “gift” of the feather include Grace being banished from the city, Jack being terribly injured, and a spy hunt encompassing all they know and love. Grace and Agnes join the Women’s Forage Corps, an organization training young women to work on farms and gather hay while the men are fighting overseas. Grace has no idea going into this endeavor how hard the work will be and what she will learn about herself and others.
In the meantime, the terribly scarred and blinded Jack Benningham has retreated to Roxwood Manor to lick his wounds and retreat from life. Because of the mask he wears to protect his burned face, he is known as the Tinman and thought of as a monster by the locals. An accident involving a load of pigs (you’ll love the description) brings Grace and Jack to an abrupt meeting. Circumstances conspire to convince Jack to hire Grace as his driver. Little do either of them know what will come of their meeting and what courage will be required when their fervent beliefs are challenged.
Kate Breslin is fascinated by this era in our history. She manages to paint a picture of the life of the gentry in England in the World War I era as well as the contrasting picture of the poor and underclasses. The war impacts them all impartially. Changes are coming: the automobile has been introduced, women are forced into and enjoying roles formally the purview of men alone. Using the artifice of Grace’s desire to write, Breslin is able to describe the beauty of the countryside and the people without diverging from the plot. The characters of Grace and Jack are well-written as are the secondary characters of the women serving with Grace in the WFC. You’ll enjoy this journey into rural England as well as the twists and turns of the spy plot. Well done, Kate. Four stars. Not by Sight is a fun read.
Kate Breslin hails from Florida but now resides in the Pacific Northwest. Her first book, For Such a Time, was a Christy Award Finalist, a double finalist for the RITAs, and won a Carol Award. She lives with her family near Seattle, Washington. Find out more about Kate at KateBreslin.com.