I downloaded The One I Was by Eliza Graham soon after it was published in May 2015 and I’ve just got round to reading it. It was worth waiting for as I really enjoyed it and think it is one of the best books I’ve read recently. It’s historical fiction split between the present and the past following the lives of Benny Gault and Rosamund Hunter.
It begins in the present as Rosamund goes to Fairfleet, her childhood home, to nurse Benny Gault, who first came to Fairfleet in 1939, having fled Nazi Germany on a Kindertransport train. As an adult he bought the house and now he is dying of cancer. It’s a difficult time for Rosamund as she has painful memories of her life at Fairfleet and she is wary about returning – so much so that she doesn’t tell Benny of her connection to the house.
Throughout the book events from both their pasts are revealed, and gradually they discover the connections between them and they come to terms with the traumas that have haunted them. This is a novel about friendship, palliative care, redemption and forgiveness across generations. I was totally engrossed in both their life stories as the various strands of the story eventually combined. Although it was Benny’s story that appealed to me the most – particularly his early life in Germany and the story of how he came to live at Fairfleet – I was also fascinated by the story of Rosamund’s grandmother, one of the few women pilots who flew Spitfires for the Air Transport Auxiliary.
This is obviously a well researched book and Eliza Graham has listed the books she had found invaluable whilst writing The One I Was.
Playing with the Moon (2007)
The History Room (2012)
The One I Was (2014)
Another Day Gone (2016)
The Lines We Leave Behind (2018)
The Truth in Our Lies (2019)
You Let Me Go (2021) – publication date 25 March 2021