If I Could Tell You by Elizabeth Wilhide is set during WW2. It starts in Suffolk where Julia lives an idealised middle class life as a mother and housewife. When a film crew come to town Julia is consumed with passion for its director, has a long-lasting affaire and eventually leaves her home for a new life in London during the Blitz.
Julia is a woman who is discontent for no particular reason other than she is not fulfilled by her life. It turns out, of course, that she is also not fulfilled by life as Dougie’s mistress. From middle class semi-luxury to poverty, from respectability to infamy, from being cared for to having to look after herself, Julia’s life changes. She has to learn to cook, to work and to live more independently and eventually she has to learn to move beyond passion to make a life for herself.
This book centres on Julia’s affaire which changes her life. I am afraid that this action of hers got the book off to a poor start for me. I am not fond of books which have this as a main plot device, especially if you are required to identify with the character who commits adultery (and in this case it is both Julia and Dougie, neither of whom come out of the incident well). It took a long time to build any sympathy for Julia because she is so inept and clingy. It is difficult to believe that she has no real knowledge of cookery but she also seems unable to handle her own emotions and she definitely hides from herself the obvious fact that Dougie is cheating on her too.
The background to this story was interesting. I thought that the information about patriotic films and how they were made was illuminating. The Blitz and the issues around how people behaved and the move into war work for women were also well portrayed. In the end though I couldn’t get over my initial antipathy to Julia which coloured my enjoyment of the whole story.