The Repercussions, by Catherine Hall

I do so love a good diary. Yes, of course, I keep one.

repercussions-coverI do so love a good diary. Yes, of course, I keep one - if only to be a smart Aleck and quote Oscar Wilde about having something sensational to read on a train.

But I have a terrible weakness for books in diary form, too. They are a joy to read. Fact or fiction, it doesn’t really matter to me.

There are two diaries here running concurrently: 40-year-old Jo, a war photographer who has inherited her great aunt's flat in Brighton and her great grandmother Elizabeth’s account of her life serving as a nurse in Brighton Pavilion in 1915.

The story unfolds in a gentle way and is utterly charming, but we are gradually drawn in to the horrors of modern terrorism in Kabul and the truly awful trench warfare of the First World War.

Jo has many problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder and, when she arrives at her inherited flat, she is numb and in need of some rest. The discovery of Elizabeth’s diary, however, is a welcome distraction from her woes.

There are some glorious descriptions of Brighton Pavilion transformed into a hospital for wounded Indian soldiers who were brought there from France, and the heartbreak that it caused Elizabeth in those unenlightened days is poignant and touching.

The modern-day descriptions of the gay bars in Kemptown, the seafront, and the busy streets of Kemptown are fascinating, too.

Don’t forget the old adage: Keep a diary, and one day it will keep you.