If I Could Tell You: A Novel

Paperback | February 28, 2017

byElizabeth Wilhide

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For fans of Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, a vivid and captivating World War II novel of love and the resilience of one woman's spirit 
 
“Heart-wrenching . . . intoxicating.”—The Times (London)
 
England, 1939: Julia Compton has a beautifully well-ordered life. Once a promising pianist, she now has a handsome husband, a young son she adores, and a housekeeper who takes care of her comfortable home. Then, on the eve of war, a film crew arrives in her coastal town. She falls in love.
 
The consequences are devastating. Penniless, denied access to her son, and completely unequipped to fend for herself, she finds herself adrift in wartime London with her lover, documentary filmmaker Dougie Birdsall. While Dougie seeks truth wherever he can find it, Julia finds herself lost. As the German invasion looms and bombs rain down on the city, she faces a choice—succumb to her fate, or fight to forge a new identity in the heat of war.

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For fans of Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, a vivid and captivating World War II novel of love and the resilience of one woman's spirit    “Heart-wrenching . . . intoxicating.”—The Times (London)   England, 1939: Julia Compton has a beautifully well-ordered life. Once a promising pianist, she now has a handsome husband, a young son s...

Elizabeth Wilhide is the author of Ashenden. Born in the United States, she has lived in Britain since 1967. She has two children and lives in south London.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.62 inPublished:February 28, 2017Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143130439

ISBN - 13:9780143130437

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Bookclub Guide

1. Why does Wilhide begin If I Could Tell You with the scene of the bombing? What was your reaction? Did you understand what was happening?2. The title of the novel is from a poem of the same name by W. H. Auden, a portion of which Wilhide includes as a preface to the book. Having read the novel, what is the significance of those three lines? 3. When her husband, Richard, discovers her affair, Julia loses everything. Do you believe Dougie is worth the sacrifice? Does Julia? Does her opinion change at any point in the novel?4. Britain’s ‘stiff upper lip’ during the London Blitz was legendary and still informs the popular view of the British people. How do you think you would have behaved if you had been in Julia’s situation?5. Julia repeatedly thinks to herself: ‘Protect my family.’ When does this phrase appear in the novel? What does she mean? In which ways does she or doesn’t she protect her family?6. Mrs. Hoffmann tells Julia that her own husband was ‘not what you might call faithful, but dead loyal just the same’ (p. 288). What is the difference? 7. Julia’s friendships with other women in the novel are complicated and shift over the course of the story. Who are the key female figures? What is their influence on Julia? 8. Do you believe it’s possible to be monogamous for one’s entire life? 9. What does Julia learn about herself from her relationship with Dougie? What does he learn from her?10. If you were to cast If I Could Tell You as a movie, who would you cast as Dougie and Julia? 11. Reread Julia and Dougie’s conversation in the final pages of the novel. What is Julia referring to in the final line when she thinks, ‘She had work to do’ (p. 309)?  

Editorial Reviews

“If I Could Tell You is a marvelous work of historical fiction, beautifully crafted and inhabited by morally complex and fully realized characters. It’s one of best novels I’ve read this year, compelling, immersive, and utterly impossible to put down.”—Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Fates and Traitors and Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker“A heartrending story of passion and loss, beautifully crafted with finely drawn characters and wonderful detail.”—Mary-Rose MacColl, internationally bestselling author of In Falling Snow"Vivid, candid, engaging. So honest."—Helen Dunmore, author of Exposure“Shades of Brief Encounter surround this wonderful, clear-eyed story set in the London blitz. As war devastates the city, love tears a woman’s life apart. The story of Julia, a woman undone by her affair, is both realistic and utterly heart wrenching.”—Jane Thynne, author of The Pursuit of Pearls“Elizabeth Wilhide writes with a historian's eye and a storyteller's grace. In If I Could Tell You, she transports readers from pre-war Britain to the Blitz and beyond, showing us how love, lust, and ultimately family can guide the heart even through the most difficult times. I fell in love with this perfectly executed take on the love triangle and the tragic heroine who turns out to be more than she ever imagined.”—Karin Tanabe, author of The Gilded Years"Unflinching, excellent...Wartime Britain has been rarely so skilfully evoked."—Daily Mail (London)"Beautifully observed and written."—Woman and Home"An elegant, absorbing tale of hope and resilience."—Sainsbury's Magazine"Elizabeth Wilhide writes about universal emotions with great tenderness and imagination."—Claire Fuller, author of Our Endless Numbered Days