THE FORGOTTEN VILLAGE
By Lorna Cook
Publication Date: 5th April 2015
Format: Paperback (336 pages)
A timeless story of love and sacrifice, perfect for fans of Rachel Hore, Tracy Rees and Kate Morton.
1943: The world is at war, and the villagers of Tyneham are being asked to make one more sacrifice: to give their homes over to the British army. But on the eve of their departure, a terrible act will cause three of them to disappear forever.
2018: Melissa had hoped a break on the coast of Dorset would rekindle her stagnant relationship, but despite the idyllic scenery, it’s pushing her and Liam to the brink. When Melissa discovers a strange photograph of a woman who once lived in the forgotten local village of Tyneham, she becomes determined to find out more about her story. But Tyneham hides a terrible secret, and Melissa’s search for the truth will change her life in ways she never imagined possible. (Goodreads)
The biggest surprise for me when reading The Forgotten Village was the fact that this is the debut novel of Lorna Cook. I have read authors who have several books under their belt that fail to have written such a moving and well plotted book.
The book opens 70 years in the past, on the day that the residents of Tyneham Village are being forced from their homes in order to support the War effort. Yet, the focus is on Vanessa and from the opening chapter, we can tell that something is off with her life.
Fast-forward to the present and we are with Melissa whose plans for a romantic break with her boyfriend are anything but. Whether its down to a twist of fate or just a chance encounter, Melissa finds herself at Tyneham reopening and inadveradtly entwined in the mystery surrounding Vanessa, her husband and what happened to them after they left the village. The spark that ignites this mystery is the photo taken on the day everyone left and the fact that Melissa notices something in Vanessa’s face.
Somehow, Melissa pulls in the services and help of TV historian Guy, who not only was at Tyneham to official open it, but also had a personal interest due to the fact that his grandmother lived in the village and worked for Vanessa and her husband.
The main focus of this book is Melissa and though I did find the mystery surrounding Vanessa and what happened in the past, I wound myself becoming so invested in Melissa and the relationship that developes between her and Guy. This develops through the book at a natural pace. However, that’s not to say that there weren’t times I felt like Skuttle in movie The Little Mermaid and was internally wishing that they would just kiss. Cook has written such an amazingly compelling couple that its difficult not to want them to get together. The chemistry jumps off the page and I think the last couple I truly shipped in this manner was Miranda and Gary from the sitcom “Miranda”. *Paused for a moment to realise that both couples initials of the leads are “M” and “G”.* That’s not to say that the course of true love never runs through and I admit I did guess the cause of this speedbump and the reaction from Melissa is completely justified with the evidence presented to her. Thankfully for Melissa and Guy it works out for the best.
The secondary plotline set in the past is just as riveting, but while the present was sweet and whimsical, the past was much more difficult to read. Though the book started just as the villagers were leaving, the plotline actually starts a few days earlier and we see a woman who is in a terrible situation. At times it is really harrowing to read and with more and more of her tale coming to light, I feared the worst. It culminates in a dramatic showdown and to say any more would spoil the story.
This is a fantastic debut novel that easily drew me in. It is so easy to root for these characters, especially Melissa and Vanessa. Though their lives are decades apart and very, very different, they end up becoming entwined. I can’t wait t read what Cook writes next as she clearly has a talent for writing fantastic stories that pull the reader in.