In the late 1930’s, Lily Verner had been planning to travel to Geneva to start living her life away from her home. A passionate and ambitious girl, she is frustrated with her father’s decision to work in the family’s silk factory as an apprentice. The minute she gets introduced to the magic touch of silk she is instantly enchanted with silk weaving. Soon WWII breaks and Lily encounters the arrival of three German Jewish refugees sent to England as part of the Kindertransport scheme. During the war her family’s factory produces parachutes for the British pilots and there is no room for mistakes. “Get it wrong and you got dead pilots”. Stefan, one of the German refugees, slightly older than perhaps what the records would state, also becomes part of Lily’s life. As the war goes on, and tensions mount, rumours circulate that someone might be tampering with the silk. Can their love survive the hardships of war? And will the Verner’s silk stand the ultimate test?
The Last Telegram is a beautifully written story about the hardships of war and love. Set against the background of WWII this novel will introduce love, friendship, tragedy as well as hope. Liz Trenow’s inspiration was from her own family’s silk factory that was running during the war and has been running for 300 years in the same family. She interviewed her parents about the mill and discovered so many stories. Her father even sponsored five Jewish ‘Kindertransport’ boys who were later interned. One of them returned to fight with the Allied forces and came back to marry his sweetheart, ending up as a senior manager in the company and lifelong friend of Trenow’s family. So therefore, despite the fact that Lily and her problems are entirely fictional, all the characters and what happen to them are inspired by real people and real events.
Once I started reading the book, I was captivated by Lily’s story and the hardships that she endured. From the moment that I picked up this book I knew that I would cry and love it and I was not wrong. I did cry, and laugh and felt happy for the characters and their fate. As we meet Lily for the first time as an old lady, our curiosity is irked about her years during the war. Stefan is a fantastic character and the plight of the German refugees is fascinating, the sensitive and dry Gwen was particularly interesting and you just end up loving her in the end. And of course the irritating smooth-talker Robbie is a wonderfully antagonistic character.
The Last Telegram is a well researched story, contains characters that you will care about and brings a tear to the eye. It will remain in your heart forever.
———– K.J. Koukas