Title: No Long Goodbyes
Author: Pauline Hayton
Genre: Historical Romance
This thorough and detailed novel tells the story of Kate Cavanagh, a young widow in the 1940s who is haunted by the neglect of her husband and the death of her young son.
She travels to Burma to get away from her troubles in England only to discover her new country has plenty of challenges of its own, ranging from the handsome Jack Bellamy to wild elephants, disease, pesky insects, and an untamed countryside. Then the Japanese invasion occurs and Kate has to find the inner courage she thought she’d lost long ago to make it out of Burma alive.
The narrative details help establish the time period for this unique novel, mentioning the more-familiar events of World War II while noting what was happening in Burma at that time in a clear and memorable way. The maps will help readers understand the context of the story, as they not only show where Kater has to go when leaving Burma but also illustrate Jack’s story as well.
However, the character motivations early on can often feel rushed, as we see them making choices without understanding what prompts those decisions. When Jack is drawn to Kate and decides he wants to pursue her or when Kate decides to take part in an amateur play, we’re left to wonder at their inner feelings—what’s at stake, what they stand to lose, and what they will gain by their decisions. In many ways, it’s not until near the middle of the novel, when Kate is journeying out of Burma, that the narration connects deeply with her and her companions.
The novel could use some editorial polish, as there are moments when the wording or commas in the wrong places can make readers stumble. Similarly, there are moments when Jack’s two children feel old for their ages, to where their dialogue seems almost mismatched, with the younger child acting verbally much older, but this disappears over the course of the story.
The author nicely shows Kate’s journey, both physically and emotionally, and by the end, she and her companions are heartfelt, complex, and intimately displayed. Early on, the plot can feel a bit slow, as though just waiting for the Japanese invasion. Kate meets new people and becomes friends in a general, vague way, with laughter and conversation shown rather than experienced.
While classified as a historical romance, the story could just as easily be a women’s fiction story, as it seems to focus less on Kate and Jack’s relationship and more on showing Kate’s growth from an emotionally-scarred and worried young woman to someone who, while not perfect, knows how to relate to others without fear of abandonment and neglect.
Those looking for a historical fiction story set in a unique part of the globe will greatly enjoy this story. It nicely weaves real life with fiction, and the details in the last half are magnificent, helping readers feel like they are there, battling the mud, steep inclines, and rugged pathways while worrying about hunger, violence, and disease.
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