Read Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans Online


It's 1940. In a small advertising agency in Soho, London, Catrin Cole writes snappy lines for Vida Elastic and So-Bee-Fee gravy browning. But the nation is in peril, all skills are transferable and there's a place in the war effort for those who have a knack with words.Catrin is conscripted into the world of propaganda films. After a short spell promoting the joy of swedesIt's 1940. In a small advertising agency in Soho, London, Catrin Cole writes snappy lines for Vida Elastic and So-Bee-Fee gravy browning. But the nation is in peril, all skills are transferable and there's a place in the war effort for those who have a knack with words.Catrin is conscripted into the world of propaganda films. After a short spell promoting the joy of swedes for the Ministry of Food, she finds herself writing dialogue for 'Just an Ordinary Wednesday', a heart-warming but largely fabricated 'true story' about rescue and romance on the beaches of Dunkirk. And as bombs start to fall on London, she discovers that there's just as much drama, comedy and passion behind the scenes as there is in front of the camera ......

Title : Their Finest Hour and a Half
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780385614238
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 415 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Their Finest Hour and a Half Reviews

  • Violet wells
    2019-01-03 22:29

    Their Finest Hour is about the making of a movie during the blitz. Initially I was struck by the lovely subtle wit of the voice of this. Such a smooth gliding surface to her prose like a layer of freshly fallen snow. Evans did a fine job of setting up the novel, evoking the atmosphere and telling little details of the times really well. The research seamlessly stitched into the fabric and adding a great deal of vitality of colour. However it began to become apparent that this novel is too long. At least 100 pages too long. And the subject and characters just didn’t have enough vitality to sustain a 400 pg. novel. The characters, not the most inspired cast to begin with, began to become tiresome. Ambrose, the ageing narcissistic actor whose vanity is repeatedly punctured, got away with being a cliché for a while but he kept repeating the same routine to the point where you could predict his every self-important and misanthropic response. The rather dowdy and unassuming Edith (scenes when she worked at Madame Taussaud’s were however brilliant) and the shell-shocked and anaemically formal Albert were touching for a while but hardly original or inspired as characters. The best character Catlin, the young female who finds a greater sense of autonomy and self-assurance during and because of the war, though again clichéd, begin to disappear from the novel just when she’s needed to support it. The vaudeville humour too began to become a bit too slapstick. Even the research began to become overwhelming. A kind of blitzkrieg of period detail as if Evans was determined to shoehorn in every little piece of fascinating data she had picked up while researching. There’s some really good comic writing. But unfortunately the long dragged out nature of this novel and its clichéd characters ended up diminishing this book from a four star affair to a barely three star one.

  • ❀⊱Rory⊰❀
    2018-12-24 20:27

    3.5 stars.Set in England during World War II, this is a character driven story about the making of a movie under the most stressful of circumstances. Writers, actors, directors, crew and their accompanying egos all muddle in together to tell the story of two sisters who took part in the Dunkirk evacuation. Equal parts hilarity and pathos ensue.I loved most of the characters, with the exception of Ambrose. I spent a good part of the book wishing a bomb would land on him. I see what you did there Lissa Evans! This book is being made into a movie and I can see why. Lissa Evans is a talented writer with a special gift for creating memorable characters and evoking an era. Although I think that her book Crooked Heart, also set during World War II, is superior to this one, I'm looking forward to seeing the movie.

  • Roger Brunyate
    2019-01-13 20:44

    Dunkirk at the OdeonI so loved Lissa Evans' recent novel Crooked Heart, about a precocious boy and crafty woman making common cause in the London Blitz, that I immediately ordered this earlier book, set in the same period. Besides, I was tickled by the title and its cheeky rewriting of Churchill's famous phrase about the Battle of Britain heroes. Only it is not so cheeky as it sounds, for Evans' subject is the making of a patriotic movie about Dunkirk, and ninety minutes in those days was the standard running time.Evans credits Norman Longmate's How We Lived Then for sparking her interest in the home front in WW2. But she has clearly absorbed a lot of novels, movies, and magazines of the period, for she has got the language and stock types down pat. It is the same seam that Kate Atkinson mined in Life After Life, the popular literature of my own childhood. Evans has just about as many plot shifts and rapid gear changes as Atkinson, but she uses them for comedy. This is, after all, the world of make-believe: advertising, propaganda, entertainment, what's the difference? And just about anyone can come along and stick their oar in. So the story of two twin girls who stole their father's boat to assist in the rescue at Dunkirk gets made whether the basic facts are true or not. But they have to add a gallant Tommy boyfriend, the rescue of an abandoned French dog, a drunken uncle who nonetheless manages to save the day despite being mortally wounded—and, oh yes, at the last-minute insistence of the War Office, a handsome American journalist, wished upon the all-Brit Dunkirk in the hopes of persuading the United States to enter the war.All this is very funny, actually, and the typed sections of screenplay that pepper the pages look pretty authentic. They are the work of a lonely bachelor named Buckley, his colleague Parfitt who supplies the gags, and, increasingly, a twenty-year old girl named Catrin just up from Wales who gets recruited to do the women's dialogue, otherwise known as "slop." Catrin, who has many more resources than first appears, is the nearest thing to a protagonist the book has, and the story is always interesting when she is on screen. But she is only one of a large number of characters, among them an "aging, enormously conceited, moderately talented" (and tiresome) actor, his hard-pressed agent, an unmarried woman who works for Madame Tussaud's and gets roped in to the wardrobe department, and a mild-mannered male virgin in his thirties who somehow becomes military adviser on the film. Of course the large cast of lovable or at least bizarre comic types is also typical for films of this era, as is the addition of a spoonful or two of pathos and a pinch of tragedy to the general comedy, so Evans is right on the money. But I still prefer the tighter focus of her more recent novel.======[2017] Two movies have recently brought this back into focus. One is the blockbuster Dunkirk, a big-screen look at the evacuation, technically brilliant, but almost totally lacking the human touches that—Evans is right—would have been essential to a film at that time. I found it dry and emotionally unaffecting. The other is the movie adaptation of this novel, called simply Their Finest. I liked this even more than Evans's original. It reduced the number of characters and incidents, but made them more realistic, less blatantly comic. The result was a finer balance between comedy and drama, still a minor film perhaps, but often quite moving.

  • Palmyrah
    2018-12-29 01:47

    This book is just about perfect: expertly written in a style reminiscent of the literary fashions of the 1940s; full of wonderful characters that begin as stereotypes and take on flesh in an extraordinary way; expertly plotted and paced, with each development and surprise perfectly timed; unsentimental yet full of feeling; painstakingly researched; and on top of all that, it tells an absolutely fascinating story.That story is set in 1940-41 and tells of the making of a British propaganda film about an incident that allegedly took place during the Allied withdrawal from Dunkirk. Three plot lines intertwine. The first features a fading former leading man in B-grade British films of the 1930s who has not yet realized that his career has tanked; he’s a typical second-rate thespian, all vanity and superficiality and contempt for humanity at large. The second follows the career of a plain, shy, lonely seamstress who works in the wardrobe department at Madame Tussauds, the famous London wax museum, and has a tendency to attract German bombs. The third storyline centres on a young, pretty Welsh woman, the taken-for-granted mistress of a famous painter, who quits her copywriter’s job at a moribund advertising agency to go and work for the Ministry of Information as a scriptwriter on propaganda films. It is her determination to turn the Dunkirk incident into a film that tells the ‘truth’ about it – not the factual truth, which turns out to be somewhat disappointing, but an emotional truth – which results in the making of the film on which the plot of the book centres. That film, incidentally, is shot on location on a Norfolk beach and in a somewhat dingy studio in South London. Each of these plot lines contains a love story, but the point of the story is not the progress of the love affair but the redemption or self-realization that results from it. Not all of the stories have happy endings.Finally, the book contains two really excellent canine characters who are quite as well-rounded and memorable as the human ones. No kiddie business here; the dogs are dogs, not humans in disguise, but anyone who knows dogs well will be able to vouch for the veracity of the character-drawing.All in all, an unqualified success. I tend to reserve my five-star ratings for world-changing or life-changing books, but this novel, while it certainly doesn’t fall into that category, probably deserves the extra star. It really is that good; my compliments to the talented and capable Ms. Evans.

  • Robert Ronsson
    2019-01-02 00:29

    Sometimes you read simply for the joy of being transported to a different time and place in the company of easy-to-get-on-with characters. If the book is amusing so much the better. On this basis Their Finest Hour and a Half ticks all the boxes. The insufferably self-absorbed actor is a special delight.The writing never over-reaches itself and is therefore satisfying and easily digestible - a chicken-soup of a book.A great holiday read that contains, according to my 92 year old Mum, the most realistic description of being in an air-raid that she has ever read.

  • Elizabeth Buchan
    2019-01-21 20:31

    Gloriously funny and touching in places, it shines a comic light on a little thought about corner of the war effort.

  • Nirica
    2019-01-04 21:39


  • Lata
    2018-12-30 22:27

    3.5-4 stars. Initial thoughts: Interesting to learn about how early propaganda films in England were handled, and while the misogyny and racism of the time was not surprising. I liked a couple of the characters, though I found myself very irritated by how things worked out for Ambrose. I liked Catrin (or however her name was spelled) and her unwillingness to lie in her screenplays, and how she learned the ropes.

  • Jane
    2019-01-21 01:42

    London. 1940. There’s a war on, and it doesn’t look like being over any time soon. That’s why the Ministry of Information is looking to make a film. A film to boost morale, and maybe draw the USA a little closer to what is going on in Europe. Propaganda? Well why not?!It’s not going to be easy, with so many of the country’s finest unavailable. But it makes a wonderful story.It is told through four characters, on separate paths that will, of course, converge.First there’s Catrin Cole. She comes from small town Wales, but she left home to follow her artist lover to the bright lights of London. She works as a copywriter, but she’s spotted as a writer with potential by the Ministry and recruited. And so we learn with Catrin the finer points of writing for the screen and dealing with the strange world of both civil servants and film industry people.Catrin proves to be an adept recruit. She uncovers the story of twin sisters helping the Dunkirk evacuation that forms the basis of the much vaunted film. Though the sisters probably wouldn’t recognise their story after the film people have had their way with it.There’s Ambrose Hilliard. He was a matinée idol back in the days of the silent screen and he is still a leading man in his own mind. Not though on anyone else’s. What will he make of the supporting, less than heroic, character role he is offered?He has a huge ego, but you cannot help feeling the sadness of his situation and hoping he will accept that his expectations must change.And there’s Edith Beadmore, a quiet middle-aged woman. She is a seamstress, working as Madame Tussaud’s, behaving properly and hoping that one day something interesting will happen to her. Maybe it will. You can’t help hoping so.Finally, there’s Lance Corporal Arthur Frith, a simple soul who is none to sure why he has been appointed Special Military Adviser to the film. It could be because he is a survivor of Dunkirk, or, more likely, it could be an administrative error. And maybe it’s fate.All four principal characters are beautifully drawn, and so utterly believable. You want to follow all of their stories, to find out what happens to them.Those stories come together beautifully to tell the story of the film.There’s much to enjoy. Gentle comedy – the kind that comes from observation and affection. And some rather broader comedy when filming finally gets underway.But that’s balanced by very real emotions. And the picture painted of life in London, with nightly bombing raids and all of the privations of war is utterly convincing.This is a book full of wonderful details, incidents and characters. There’s a lot going on and it would be so easy for things to go wrong, but they don’t.Their Finest Hour and a Half speaks wonderfully of lives that change, in small and in big ways, as the result of one propaganda film.It’s one of those books well worth living in for a little while.

  • Anmiryam
    2019-01-24 00:23

    Lissa Evans won my heart with Crooked Heart and this American release of her earlier WWII novel has a solid place on the shelf as well. Evans has a gift for delivering stories that bring familiar periods to life in new ways. In THEIR FINEST, we are invited into the lives of the mismatched crew involved in the making of a patriotic film in the crucial years of 1940-41. There's the over-the-hill, self-obsessed former leading man who hasn't yet realized he is no longer matinee idol material, a young woman who tumbles into a scriptwriting job via a stint in advertising, a shy costume maker at Madame Tussaud's and a former catering manager now a member of His Majesty's forces. Over the course of a year they will meet and their lives will be transformed by the experience of shooting a picture and the vagaries of war. It is not a plot driven novel, but rather depends on it's warm humor in depicting these various characters, warts and all, with humor and sympathy.The book is in production as a film and while I think it will translate well to the screen (festival reviews say it does, with Bill Nighy stealing the show), I think it's pacing would have been more suited to a television series. One caveat, the US title (some googling reveals it's the film producers who are at fault) doesn't really suit the book. It was shortened from THEIR FINEST HOUR AND A HALF which more effectively captures the book by riffing on the oft quoted phrase made famous by Winston Churchill, while simultaneously sending up the standard length of films of the era which hints at the central action of the book. THEIR FINEST just plops there and tells you nothing. UK cover was better too. The movie tie-in cover that's being used here is not awful, but is boring and does nothing to hint at the tone of the book.

  • Nicola Mcfall
    2019-01-05 20:30

    This book didn't really live up my expectations after reading the blurb on the cover. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't as gripping as I had hoped it would be. I didn't fall in love with any of the characters (unless we are counting the dog which I grew fond of! lol!) so I wasn't breaking my neck to keep lifting the book to see what had happened to them. It's strange because the stories should have been something I enjoyed but there was something missing that I just cannot put my finger on! I suspect, however, that this book could be made into a really very decent BBC Sunday night drama, and if I was made into one I would certainly watch because I believe with the right cast and good script editor it might perhaps achieve that 'something' that the novel sadly lacked for me.

  • Teresa
    2019-01-19 20:49

    I read about half of this, and it just seems to be spinning its wheels and not getting anywhere much. It's not terrible, just not particularly good, despite the occasional funny moments, and I'd rather be reading something else.

  • Melinda Elizabeth
    2019-01-12 22:39

    Their Finest Hour and a Half, set in the midst of the Blitz in WWII, follows the production of a movie that is set to rally the troops and wow the American audience.The set up of the main characters lends itself more to a visual medium rather than a novel I found. In what you could easily see as an introduction to an ensemble cast ala "Inglorious Bastards", there is quite a bit of time setting up the premise of the story.Ambrose, the washed up actor injects some much needed humour into the story, and his escapades (especially with the dog) make the book. Catrin is the copywriter who lucks into a role as a writer, and Ms Beadmore, who works at Madame Tussauds and seems to be a magnet for bombings in London finds herself caught up with the filming of the untitled Dunkirk war film. By 200 pages in we were still leading up to the main event in the novel, and for such a short book it felt that a lot of time was spent leading up to nothing in particular. I wanted to see more character development, and there was plenty to be said and done (especially with Catrin and Ms Beadmore) that just sort of trailed off a bit. It was interesting enough but I just wanted it to be a bigger hitter than it was.

  • Sonia
    2019-01-15 20:33

    A fine recommendation from Kate and Susann, two of my favorite readers! Good character development throughout, except for the American, but I feel like that's a sign of the genre (20th c. British war fiction). Of course it's a story about filmmaking, so this is an unfair and silly criticism, but to me it felt like it was leaning towards its own BBC serialization a little too heavily.Addendum 5/17: just saw the film version and enjoyed it tremendously. Bill Nighy as Ambrose and Eddie Marsan as his agent!

  • Susann
    2019-01-01 01:45

    So grateful that Kate S. recommended this and that a friend was able to bring me a copy from her recent London trip. Last I checked, this terrific novel is inexplicably still unavailable in the U.S. I'm having trouble coming up with anything beyond the platitudinous: "rich characters"; "highly readable"; "well-researched"; "I laughed; I cried." But it's all true and I look forward to re-reading this someday (not something I often say about adult novels).

  • Constance
    2019-01-19 23:28

    a bit of a slog so far at 2/3 way through. I wish I could remember why the publisher's rep made me want to read this. This definitely picked up toward the end, but still many of the characters were underdeveloped. I'd say it's a solid 2 1/2.

  • Julie Cohen
    2019-01-18 23:38

    A really enjoyable story about making a propaganda feature film during WWII. Beautifully written, lots of fun, but with a deep and absorbing commentary on the nature of courage.

  • Lynn
    2019-01-17 22:44

    A good well researched read but not as good as Crooked Heart.

  • Sue
    2019-01-23 01:24

    War, war - but bore, bore.Set in 1940, this is the story of two women caught up in their contributions to the war effort. One is Catrin, an ad agency copywriter with a gift for dialogue, who gets conscripted into the world of propaganda films. The other, Edith, works at Madame Tussauds, gets caught up in the bombing and becomes involved with the production of the film around which the story revolves.This is a bright and breezy read which failed to engage me quite as much as I’d hoped. It is rather over-endowed with stereotypes (Ambrose the Actor being a case in point) and obvious plot developments, and I’m afraid I grew increasingly bored. I came to a juddering halt when the ever-whinging Ambrose the Actor is invited over to his (Jewish) agent’s home for a meal, specifically for “lockshen” (a vermicelli-like pasta that goes into soup or puddings). This is like being invited over for an ingredient. And it was at this point that I began to doubt the authenticity of a book that has now been gently removed to the back burner.

  • Mount Prospect Public Library
    2019-01-05 00:27

    One of our patrons called to ask about this title, and his enthusiasm was contagious! At the center is a young woman who is hired to write the 'sentimental' parts of a WWII propaganda film to boost morale. Historical drama, comic elements, and a UK film adaptation has just come to US theaters. A new copy is on its way (digital, too), and when we're ready for warm and engaging, this will be on the short list.

  • Amanda
    2018-12-25 18:31


  • David
    2019-01-21 20:39

    A gentle look at London under bombardment at the start of WW2 and the filming of a government sanctioned movie of the evacuation of Dunkirk. Quite witty and easy to read.

  • Linden
    2019-01-06 00:52

    Set during the blitz, a screenwriter writes a script for a film about Dunkirk. There are many quirky and endearing characters with lots of humor and sadness. Outstanding.

  • Ophelinha
    2019-01-05 23:35

    Good story, interesting plot, potentially fascinating characters, but somehow the whole mix lacks vitality and strength and the narration is ever so slow I had to struggle to go through the book.

  • Antoinette
    2019-01-09 18:25

    My copy (thanks to Christopher Reed) is titled Their Finest (without the Hour And A Half) - I like the full title better. I really enjoyed the disparate stories coming together, and the glimpses into the drudgery of life during the bombing of London. The main character reminds me of Peggy Olson in Mad Men

  • Monical
    2019-01-07 20:50

    At the start, I thought this would be a fluffy bit of a book, but about a quarter of the way through the main plot kicked in and I totally changed my mind. A really satisfying read-- enjoyed the characters, who were well drawn and fleshed out (even the dog!), and the plot moved well with a great structure. I'd say more but that would involve spoilers. let's just say this was one of the best books I've read this year!

  • Jen
    2019-01-02 18:37

    It is London in 1940, and the Ministry of Information is churning out films to improve morale. Catrin Cole, writer, followed her lover to London from South Wales. Ambrose Hilliard is the character actor dreaming of the lead roles he played twenty years earlier. Arthur Frith is the military advisor who can�t quite shake his memories of Dunkirk. Edith sews buttons on costumes. Cerberus the dog doesn�t like water. The American can�t act. One of the other writers has oily hair.[return][return]Therein lies my main problem with this book. There are a lot of characters, and at one point or another, they�re all doing something that is of central importance to the plot. Sadly, they are all forgettable characters, insipid and something short of endearing. There were brief glimpses of humanity in each of them, but they all eventually retreat into dull wartime wallpaper. I kept getting characters mixed up in my mind, and I really struggled to imagine any of them as real people.[return][return]Don�t be fooled into thinking that this is a story about London during the Blitz. This is principally a story about these somewhat two-dimensional characters, and their experience of making what is supposed to be a heroic film whilst some beastly Jerries are outside, making a frightful racket and keeping people awake at night. The war encroaches on their daily lives, with houses bombed out and characters killed off, but there is a peculiar lack of real emotional response to this.[return] [return]Finally, the last hundred pages were exceptionally tedious. This felt like a two-hundred-page book that had been stretched out to fill four hundred. Disappointing.

  • Cliff
    2018-12-24 19:29

    This book was oroginally called Their Finest Hour and a Half. The copy I have read has had the title truncated to tie in with the recently issued film of that name. Nothing else has been changed and I haven't seen the film, although I have read reviews and know that the character of Ambrose Hilliard is played by Bill NIghy. I can hear his voice in evey line of dialogue given to the character in the book. A great piece of casting! The book tells the story of the making of a wartime film about a small boat which is supposed to have tarvelled to Dunkirk, crewed only by ywo sisters. In fact, they returned with engine problems when only a few miles across, but of course the first casualty of war is the truth as we all know and the story is thought by government to be morale boosting. And, of course, truth never stood in the way of a good movie (cf Braveheart!). The book brings together in the course of the story of the film making - Catrin who starts off writing scripts for Ministry of Information shorts, the aforesiad Ambrose Hilliard, and old thespian who thinks he is being bypassed for younger stars and Edith, a seamstress for Madame Tussauds who finds here metier in the costume departments of movie companies and a husband while the eponymous film is being mad. All these various lives and many others come together during the tedium of film making ('let's retake that shot' - for the 20th time) and the sheer terror of being in London during the blitz with nightly fire watching meaning sleepless nights and houses and offices collapsing under the rin of high explosives.

  • Kate
    2019-01-22 21:45

    Lissa Evans' Their Finest Hour and a Half is hands down my favourite read of the year so far (that's out of 100+ books, many of which were very good).It tells the tale of the making of a propaganda film during WWII and in so doing vividly depicts life on the home front in England generally and in London during the blitz in particular. Along the way it neatly skewers the bureaucracy of the Ministry of Information and the inner workings of the 1940s film industry. It's billed as a comic novel, and it's wickedly funny much of the time, but without ever glossing over the hardship and tragedies of life in wartime.There is a large and diverse cast of characters and Evans' manages to do justice to the unique stories of each. Ambrose Hilliard, a breath-takingly self-absorbed, aging matinee idol, is a marvelous comic creation who nearly steals the novel. He notes early on, for example, that he really only notices the war in so far as it makes it difficult for him to get the things he likes to eat. His battle is with age and diminishing public interest not with Germany, and his chief weapon is self-delusion. But it was the female characters for whom, in contrast to Ambrose Hilliard, the war changes everything, who ultimately made the deepest impression on me, especially Catrin Cole, junior advertising copy-writer turned script writer as a result of her conscription by the Ministry of Information.Just as billed on the cover blurb: "funny, moving and intensely readable." I loved this novel from beginning to end.

  • Jessie B
    2019-01-22 01:34

    I’ve had this WWII historical novel on my TBR list for a while and decided to read it before I see the recent film adaptation. I have a thing for stories set on the British home front during WWII. Their Finest offers a unique and entertaining take on this theme.The narrative flips between a young script-writer, an older actor whose star has faded, a downtrodden seamstress, and a soldier suffering from PTSD, whose lives intertwine when they become involved in the creation of a propaganda film. This film- about two sisters who help rescue soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk- is meant to inspire Americans and sway public support for that nation’s entrance into WWII. However, it’s no easy task to create a successful film in the middle of a war.Lissa Evans’ prose immediately drew me in. Her sentences are incredibly descriptive and paint a vivid scene of everyday life during this chaotic time. I felt thoroughly transported to the damp bomb shelters, busy film sets, smoky pubs, and buzzing offices. You can tell that Evans has both a great appreciation for and a wealth of knowledge of the period.Their Finest is warm, humorous, well-researched, and well-written. I didn’t want to leave the characters Evans created or the world in which they lived.