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The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow

The Last Telegram (edition 2012)

by Liz Trenow

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1176103,116 (3.82)None
Title:The Last Telegram
Authors:Liz Trenow
Info:Avon (2012), Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:2012, kindle

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The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow



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Lily Verner, daughter of a silk miller, is grieving the recent loss of her husband and thinks back over a significant part of her life. She had learned to weave silk when her year in Switzerland was cancelled due to the threat the Nazi's were posing in Austria prior to the start of WW II. During the war she ended up running the mill, overseeing the weaving of parachute silk. At one time when faced with enormous pressure, she made a terrible choice she has lived with ever since, and in this novel she finally confronts it.

The characters are well done, and it is fairly easy to root for Lily and those she loves. There are mysteries which are well kept, and it's not easy to see certain answers just by reading the ending (which I always do).

One of the key elements in this story not seen in the summary is Lily's convincing her father to bring home three Jewish youths who have been allowed to leave Austria after the Nazi's conquered it. These three were employed at the mill, but as war began became persecuted for being "German" Jews, but mainly for being "German," despite the fact that they were Austrian. Stefan, in particular, becomes very close to Lily, and their budding romance becomes forbidden due to this persecution.

I recommend this book. ( )
  Karin7 | Jan 20, 2016 |
Enjoyed the history of silk included. A story of love, loss, and regret, along with hope. I've read a lot of World War II books, but none from the perspective of a silk maker's family. ( )
  hoosieriu97 | Nov 2, 2014 |
I read a review of this book that compared it to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This book is no Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It was a rather boring, predictable love story set in WWII in England. ( )
  castironskillet | Aug 13, 2013 |
This review first appeared on my blog: http://www.knittingandsundries.com/2013/06/goodreads-description-decades-ago-as....

My Take:

As the book opens, we meet Lily Verner directly after the funeral of her husband of 55 years. As her 17-year-old granddaughter Emily helps her sort through her belongings (she is clearing out the house for her son and his family to move into), they come across a box that, in partnership with Emily informing her that she will soon do a parachute jump, trigger Lily's reminiscing about her wartime experiences...

East Anglia in the 1930's and 40's is the time. Lily hopes to study in Geneva, but her beloved father explains that the times are too uncertain right now for her to go abroad. Her brother John recently came home from school and informed them that the Nazis recently passed a law in Vienna that makes it illegal for Jewish people to own businesses, and there is no doubt that more trouble is coming to Europe from the Nazis.

The family owns a silk mill, and Lily finds herself working there, apprenticing under Gwen, who becomes a great friend, although Lily DOES find herself initially shocked at one of Gwen's revelations.

Lily meets Robert "Robbie" Cameron at a party that her brother takes her to. He is wealthy, articulate, and flies planes as a hobby. He is also VERY interested in Lily herself. After a meeting with the family, Robbie convinces them to begin manufacturing parachute silk. This will keep the factory solvent during what will inevitably turn into a war.

When John tells the family of hundreds of Jewish children brought over from Germany and Poland who are now in a camp because their sponsor families reneged, he and Lily eventually convince their father to bring two or three boys over to work at the mill. Stefan, Kurt and Walter are excited at the idea of being able to make their own living and get out of the camp. They are set up in their own house, and quickly catch on to the intricate work involved in the manufacturing of silk, especially the high degree of accuracy involved in the making of parachute silk:

"Get it right and you save lives, sir. Get it wrong, and you've got dead pilots"

As we travel with Lily through the war years in this first-person account, there is romance, romance gone wrong, a picture of the prejudice that EVERY German begins to encounter, friendship, loss, perseverance, and the ties of family.

There are excerpts from Lily's father's unpublished book The History of Silk at each chapter heading:

"The silk we love for its softness and beauty is also one of the strongest and toughest fibers in the world. It has a strength of around five grams per denier compared with three grams per denier for a drawn wire of soft steel. It has much more elasticity than cotton or flax, and its resistance to shearing or twisting forces is considerably greater than that of the new rayons and nylons."

I enjoyed learning about Lily's life and came away with a new understanding about silk's history and its manufacture (I DO enjoy learning new things even as I read an entertaining story). With its evocative language, and a bit of redemption at the end, this title would be a good read for anyone interested in the time period and/or any reader that likes a flowing character study. It may also tug at your heartstrings, so be prepared. :)


The room smells of old whiskey and wood smoke and reverberates with long-ago conversations. Family secrets lurk in the skirting boards.

Writing: 4 out of 5 stars
Plot: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Characters: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Reading Immersion: 4 out 5 stars

BOOK RATING: 4 out of 5 stars ( )
  jewelknits | Jun 11, 2013 |
I enjoyed this authors first book. The Last Telegram takes place in the British countryside during WWII. How Lily finds love with a refugee and has to take over managing her families factory making parachutes for the war and then deal with all the loss and changes that war brings to her and her country. ( )
  pjhess | Apr 9, 2013 |
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As Nazi planes dominated the British sky, 18-year-old Lily Verner made a terrible mistake that she's spent decades trying to forget. But now an unexpected event pulls her back to the 1940s British countryside and her family's textile mill.

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