Title: The One I Was
Author: Eliza Graham
Publisher: Moreton Street Books
Genre: Literary Fiction / Historical Fiction
The One I Was is a beautifully-crafted piece of literary fiction that kept me turning the pages long into the night. It is a story of secrets and the release that comes from sharing them.
Rosamond is a "midwife for the dying" and has had the terrible events of a winter at Fairfleet estate weighing on her heart for many years. Benny Gault is her dying patient, who came to England from Germany as a child to escape the Nazis, and built a beautiful life in his new home. But the secrets he has been harboring (from his childhood in Germany, as well as some ethical dilemmas in his teenage years at Fairfleet) haunt him.
Rosamond's past has prevented her from making lasting connections or moving forward in her life. Benny's secrets are the last thing tying him to the world of the living and keeping him from moving on to the next life.
The characters are appealing, and some give us a glimpse into a part of history we don't hear much about. For example, female pilots transporting war planes, or Kindertransport which removed Jewish children from Nazi Germany before the war and saved them from what was coming. As Harriet (a pilot, the owner of the Fairfleet estate, and Rosamond's grandmother) tells Benny when he has recently moved there, "The world depends on some of us refusing to be the same as everyone else."
Adding to the sympathetic characters, page-turning secrets, and bits of little-known history is a gorgeous style of writing that is sparse and intentional. Graham seems to choose every word carefully so she can say in a short sentence what it might take others a paragraph to say. One perfect example is her description of the estate in the fall. One author might go on and on about the light and air and shadows and warmth, but Graham says, "October lit Fairfleet's grounds with a honey tint." And with that, the reader can build the image.
I recommend this book for anyone who appreciates literary fiction or historical fiction. This book is a keeper!