Review of The Dandelion Years by Erica James

Published: 26th February 2015
Publisher: Orion
Pages: 416


Ashcombe was the most beautiful house Saskia had ever seen as a little girl. A rambling pink cottage on the edge of the Suffolk village of Melbury Green, its enchanting garden provided a fairy-tale playground of seclusion, a perfect sanctuary to hide from the tragedy which shattered her childhood.

Now an adult, Saskia is still living at Ashcombe and as a book restorer devotes her days tending to the broken, battered books that find their way to her, daydreaming about the people who had once turned their pages. When she discovers a notebook carefully concealed in an old Bible – and realising someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to hide a story of their own – Saskia finds herself drawn into a heart-rending tale of wartime love…


Thank you to Orion for kindly sending me a review copy.

Saskia lives with her Father (Ralph) and her two Grandfathers (Oliver and Harvey). The opening chapter sees Saskia waking up on her 32rd birthday, still living at home, still as happy and content as ever. Readers learn very early on that all four main characters have suffered three great losses which can never be forgotten but are always remembered on special days with a glass of champagne. Due to her sad circumstances, Saskia’s family is extremely close and I really liked that aspect as I knew it would continue throughout. Her personality was unique and she shone rather brightly until the very end.

“More often than not, she preferred the company of a room full of books to a room full of people.”

When the plot moved into Ralph’s point of view, I was particularly pleased as it was a move away from the obvious (a love interest and Saskia only telling the story). I really enjoyed hearing from the Father and the two Grandfathers throughout as it was rather interesting to hear from different generations. As other characters are brought into the narrative, it is clear that the theme of old and young played a very big part throughout and seeing the relationships was a sheer joy.

“It was all about routine and tradition at Ashcombe.”

I hadn’t given the title much thought but within ten per cent or so of the book, we were introduced to The Dandelion Years. I hadn’t read the blurb (as I had a proof NetGalley copy) and therefore, I was just able to sit back and allow the notebook to tell me all about World War II.

“…she had to keep a tight hold of her heart to keep it safe from being hurt.”

Erica managed to convey all the characters voices very well despite the narrative being told in third person (he/she) rather than in first (I, me). The plot itself was rather dense, full to the brim with description and a large range of emotion within every single chapter. I really enjoyed how family came first in the plot as it’s not always like that when there is a love interest. Saskia was a wonderfully sweet main character who was a pleasure to read about. A book like this is fantastic to read over a weekend break away.

Twitter: @TheEricaJames