The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris
As a child, Fenna is caught up in a Christmas Eve disaster (based on the Italian Hall Disaster of 1913.) Traumatized by this horrific event, she turns to magic and the art of illusion to help her process. Yet, her work as an escape artist soon attracts the attention of British intelligence and when Fenna is called to help the war efforts, her past becomes harder to run away from.
The thing I love most about historical fiction, is when an author is able to uncover little known historical facts and bring it to life. The Ways We Hide contained many of these moments for me, like: the Italian Hall disaster and the Bethnal Green Tube Disaster, along with fun facts about things like the secret use for Monopoly during WWII.
This is a sweeping story that covers a wide scale of settings: moving from Copper Country, to New York, to London, and on to Holland, to name a few. Over the course of the book, you get a really intimate look into a life that was forever altered in one childhood moment.
I loved the motivation of the character Fenna. The first half of the book is focused on Fenna’s creativity and passion as an escape artist on stage, and the build-up as to how she got there. You get a strong sense of the trauma she endured and how that motivated and was reflected in the decisions she made. This portion was absolutely riveting and I loved the illusion element.
The second half of the book felt as if it could be a sequel to the first. There is a lot going on in this story, covering a wide stretch of time and setting — and the latter half of the book did give off a very different feel. This wasn’t a bad thing, as I love spy stories set overseas during WWII. I also appreciated that it was set in Holland — as that’s a location we don’t see as frequently in this genre. However, I lost some of the “magic” that I’d felt at the beginning. (Literally and figuratively!) And that was the only reason this didn’t quite hit five stars for me.
Still, this was an absolutely beautifully written story. It’s clear McMorris has done extensive research as The Ways We Hide is steeped in rich, historical details. The character of Fenna was well done: flawed but strong, clever, with a heavy past, and absolutely one to root for. And the story was one that absolutely came to life for me.
This beautiful story is earning a spot of my permanent historical fiction shelf and I look forward to more books by Kristina McMorris!
Fans of WWII historical fiction looking for a unique story element to the genre.
This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. ARC provided courtesy of the publisher, Sourcebooks. All opinions expressed are my own.
About the book:
(From the publisher): A sweeping World War II tale of an illusionist whose recruitment by British intelligence sets her on a perilous, heartrending path.
As a little girl raised amid the hardships of Michigan’s Copper Country, Fenna Vos learned to focus on her own survival. That ability sustains her even now as the Second World War rages in faraway countries. Though she performs onstage as the assistant to an unruly escape artist, behind the curtain she’s the mastermind of their act. Ultimately, controlling her surroundings and eluding traps of every kind helps her keep a lingering trauma at bay.
Yet for all her planning, Fenna doesn’t foresee being called upon by British military intelligence. Tasked with designing escape aids to thwart the Germans, MI9 seeks those with specialized skills for a war nearing its breaking point. Fenna reluctantly joins the unconventional team as an inventor. But when a test of her loyalty draws her deep into the fray, she discovers no mission is more treacherous than escaping one’s past.
Inspired by stunning true accounts, The Ways We Hide is a gripping story of love and loss, the wars we fight—on the battlefields and within ourselves—and the courage found in unexpected places.