Nineteen Steps is a beautiful and emotional story about a girl that navigates growing up, finding love and living through tragedy in the midst of World War II.
It’s 1942, and London remains under constant threat of enemy attack as the second world war rages on. In the Bethnal Green neighborhood, Nellie Morris counts every day lucky that she emerges from the underground shelters unharmed, her loving family still surrounding her.
Three years into the war, she’s grateful to hold onto remnants of normalcy—her job as assisting the mayor and nights spent at the local pub with her best friend. But after a chance encounter with Ray, an American airman stationed nearby, Nellie becomes enchanted with the idea of a broader world.
Just when Nellie begins to embrace an exciting new life with Ray, a terrible incident occurs during an air raid one evening, and the consequences are catastrophic. As the truth about that night is revealed, Nellie’s world is torn apart. When it seems all hope is lost, Nellie finds that, against all odds, love and happiness can triumph.
The story is inspired by Millie Bobby Brown’s family history and based on true events about the Bethnal Green tragedy. In all honesty, I wasn’t aware of this tragedy, and it was quite insightful, albeit sad, to learn something new about what people went through during the war.
I also want to give credit to the amazing Kathleen McGurl for ghost writing this book and collaborating with Millie. I haven’t read any of her books yet, but I will definitely be checking them out.
Nineteen Steps follows the life of a young girl, Nellie Morris, who lives with her mum, dad, brother and sister. She works at the town hall, assisting the mayor, and dreams of someday travelling the world, once the war is done.
“But she wanted more from life than to marry the boy next door, the boy who’d said he’d never leave the East End. She wanted to travel, to see the world. When the war was over, she intended to do just that.”
She will very soon experience tragedy and try to continue living with a huge sadness and loss in her heart.
One scene in particular, where a running for a bus is involved, made me cry for hours. For personal reasons, I connected to this scene and it really touched and broke my heart. We get to see Nellie living her day-to-day life, in a very uncertain environment, dealing with things a young woman shouldn’t be dealing with. Her support network through this tragedy is incredible – her family, her friend Babs and of course, Billy, are an incredible help when she is at her lowest.
We get to see her fall in love, a beautiful romance starts, promising light at the end of the tunnel. Nellie’s first kiss and her thoughts are written so beautifully!
“It felt as though her whole soul was melting into his, as though time had stopped, the world was no longer turning, the war was a distant memory. If ever she had to pick a moment she’d want to last for eternity, she thought, this would be the one she’d choose.”
And then, when everything seems to be going okay, despite the terrible war, Nellie, her family and friends, and the people of Bethnal Green will experience a tragedy that will change their lives forever. Nineteen steps is an emotional rollercoaster. It’s a story full of emotions, from the beginning to the end. There is romance, but it’s not the main part of the book. There is sadness and grief, but it’s a story about looking forward. A story about coming-of-age and being brave when it seems impossible. A story where in times when you cannot be brave, there will be people ready to be brave for you. As a historical romance, it’s not the best in its genre, but it’s a story that will certainly touch a person’s heart.
I recommend it warmly, tissues included!
About The Authors:
Millie Bobby Brown is a British Emmy Award–winning actress. She has been featured in the TIME 100 list of the world’s most influential people and is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Nineteen Steps is her first book.
Kathleen McGurl lives in Bournemouth with her husband and cat. She has two grown-up sons who have now left home. She always wanted to write, and for many years was waiting until she had the time. Eventually she came to the bitter realisation that no one would pay her for a year off work to write a book, so she sat down and started to write one anyway. Since then she has sold dozens of short stories to women’s magazines and written three books for writers. These days she is concentrating on longer fiction and has published several dual timeline novels with CarinaUK and HQ. She works full time in the IT industry and when she’s not writing, she’s often out running, slowly.