1939: Lily Shephard is on her way to Australia to work as a domestic. On board she meets some entertaining characters. There is a wealthy couple, Eliza and Max, who prefer to be below decks than their own deck. There is Edward who develops an attraction to Lily, and his sister who appears to be overprotective, Maria who is a Jewish refugee and then there is George, a fascist who is really an unlikeable fellow.
Lily finds herself caught up in the world that she would normally not be in. Dress balls, cocktail parties, a world that takes her to Naples, Cairo and Ceylon. All is well until it isn't, meaning that Maria disappears and it is thought that she jumped overboard. Lily also begins to see that Eliza and Max are not who they appear to be and George is sounding more dangerous in his beliefs as time goes on and his fascination with Lily proves to be dangerous to her. Who are these people that Lily has befriended? It seems that they are all running away from their past lives and secrets. Then there is a murder that has everyone reeling.
This novel starts out seeming to be one of a romantic voyage for Lily and a new life for her. Based on the diaries that the author found that belonged to Joan, a friend of her mothers. The diaries detail the voyage that Joan took to Australia. In it Joan told a myriad of details that included, the clothing, the price of things, who she met etcetera. I found this to be interesting in that Rachel Rhys was able to tell a story that contained a lot of real facts from a real person.
I really enjoyed this book and read it in two sittings! A historical fiction novel that had the world on the brink of war.