1877 Love, cloak-and-dagger espionage, and WW2
Someday I’ll Find You
By C.C. Humphreys
Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2023
$25.00 / 9780385690515
Reviewed by Valerie Green
Loosely based on his parents’ true story, C.C. Humphreys has produced an enthralling page-turner set in World War 2—it’s a novel you will not be able to put down.
Someday I’ll Find You tells the story of an Anglo-Canadian airforce pilot and a Norwegian female spy who meet during the London Blitz, only to be separated a few days later to fight their own wars in different parts of the world.
Billy Coke finds himself in London in December of 1940 as Hitler’s bombs fell on innocent citizens. A Norwegian musician, Ilse Magnusson is also in London in training to be a spy for her country. These strangers fall in love after three days, knowing all the while their time together will be short-lived and they may never meet again.
Billy must return to his job flying Canadian Spitfires to destroy Luftwaffe planes over North Africa and the Mediterranean. Ilse will be heading back to Norway to ingratiate herself with the Nazis, both Norwegian and German, to gain vital information to transmit to England. Sadly, the Nazis in Oslo include her beloved father, who believed in Hitler’s cause to make a better world, and whom she must now betray. The odds of Billy and Ilse ever meeting again are slim.
This book is not simply a war love story; it is so much more. Humphreys takes his readers from the decadent days of pre-war Berlin and the atrocities perpetrated in Spain, to daily life in German-occupied Oslo. His descriptive passages of what men and women faced during wartime are inspiring and heartfelt. Humphreys portrays wartime from many points of view and explores the necessity of compromises.
The novel begins strongly: “When he slammed the front door of his boarding house and stepped onto Carter Lane, Billy Coke had no idea he was stepping to his fate.” His fate not only includes the tragedy of one of the worst nights of the London Blitz, but also the night he would meet Ilse, who became the love of his life.
At that same moment, Ilse is also thinking about fate. A flautist by profession, she’s inspired by her love of music. Humphreys aptly mixes Ilse’s emotions toward love and music with action-packed passages about war. And he includes small touching passages. For example, the comradeship of Londoners in underground shelters who try their best to make life tolerable in a world gone mad. And: Billy’s joy of singing in a local pub for the friends he made there.
Further, passages such as this one strongly convey the message of how war and pain can change people:
Klaus Von Ronnenberg loved morphine. For someone who had only ever consumed stimulants such as cigarettes, beer, and schnapps, and all those in moderation, it surprised him how much he loved it. He’d thought it was something only those of weak character could become addicted to. But he’d been wrong to think that, so wrong.
All the chapters open with sentences whose descriptions grab our attention:
One moment the stormtrooper was looking at her papers, the next he’d dropped them and had lunged at her, reaching his long arms around her back, pulling her close, so close she could see the smile in his eyes as he banged his groin into hers. Ilse moved her head to the left side of his and bit his ear.
The characters in this novel are all memorable. It is difficult to pick out one over another as we are swept along in their assorted stories. We can experience the excitement of cloak-and-dagger espionage in Norway where morally complex decisions must be made and lived with.
The author adapts a Noel Coward song from Coward’s play Private Lives not only the title for his book, but also for the melody in Billy’s heart as he sings and vows to one day find his love again despite the odds.
“This was the novel I had to write,” states Humphreys in his Author’s Note at the end of the novel. “Exploring the world in which my parents came of age—those terrible, terrifying yet sometimes thrilling times and places—I did what a writer does: I tried to imagine how a person might react to stress and circumstance. That these characters are at least partially based on my mother and father has helped me know them so much better—while making me miss them so much more. If only I could talk to them now! Perhaps in a way I have.”
I also enjoyed and appreciated the glossary of place names and the bibliography Humphreys thought to include in this book. Regrettably, the ending leaves his readers guessing.
C.C. Humphreys, who lives on Salt Spring Island, has put all his many talents to work into this inspiring work. As a playwright, an actor, and a best-selling author, he has managed to create another exceptional novel you will not soon forget. It will linger in your heart long after the last page, and perhaps even give readers an enhanced understanding of a generation that lived and died for a better future.
Valerie Green was born and educated in England where she studied journalism and law. Her passion was always writing from the moment she first held a pen in her hand. After working at the world-famous Foyles Books on Charing Cross Road, London, followed by a brief stint with M15 and legal firms, she moved to Canada in 1968 where she married and raised a family, while embarking on a long career as a freelance writer, columnist, and author of over twenty non-fiction historical and true-crime books. Her debut novel Providence has recently been published by Hancock House as the first of The McBride Chronicles, an historical four-generational family saga bringing early BC history alive. Now semi-retired (although writers never really retire!) she enjoys taking short road trips around BC with her husband, watching their two beloved grandsons grow up and, of course, writing. Editor’s note: Valerie Green has recently reviewed books by Anna Pitoniak, Louise Carson, Michael Kluckner, Jennifer Manuel, Barbara Smith, Ian Gibbs, Helen Edwards, and Michelle Barker for The British Columbia Review.
The British Columbia Review
Interim Editors, 2023-24: Trevor Marc Hughes (non-fiction), Brett Josef Grubisic (fiction)
Publisher: Richard Mackie
Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line book review and journal service for BC writers and readers. The Advisory Board now consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Barry Gough, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. The British Columbia Review was founded in 2016 by Richard Mackie and Alan Twigg.
“Only connect.” – E.M. Forster