This post is part of a blog tour organised by Random Things Blog Tours. I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.
“London, 1952. Dina Demetriou has travelled from Cyprus for a better life. She’s certain that excitement, adventure and opportunity are out there, waiting – if only she knew where to look.
“Her passion for clothes and flair for sewing land her a job repairing the glittering costumes at the notorious Pelican Revue. It’s here that she befriends the mysterious and beautiful Bebba.
“With her bleached-blonde hair and an appetite for mischief, Bebba is like no Greek Dina has ever met before. She guides Dina around the fashionable shops, bars and clubs of Soho, and Dina finally feels life has begun.
“But Bebba has a secret. And as thick smog brings the city to a standstill, the truth emerges with devastating results. Dina’s new life now hangs by a thread. What will be left when the fog finally clears? And will Dina be willing to risk everything to protect her future? “
She Came to Stay, by Eleni Kyriacou, is exciting right from the very first page. We meet young Greek Cypriot Dina at a pivotal time of her life, as she gets her dream job repairing intricate stage costumes, not far from her new home in London. She loves making and altering clothes, and the money, on top of her earnings in a greasy spoon café, will help her rent a better place.
I took to Dina straightaway because she’s so enthusiastic, talented, and full of hopes and dreams. I was so happy for her when she got the job, and there was even a hint of romance on the horizon. I also loved the descriptions of the costumes she works on, as well as the gaudy venue in Soho where the artifice is just high enough to convince the punters that it’s a glamorous contrast to the drab city outside, which is still reeling from the devastation of WWII.
Unfortunately, Dina’s new life is derailed by her foolish, gambling addict brother Peter and her new friend Bebba, who quickly turns nasty. Bebba is the perfect villain: she gets under the siblings’ skin by captivating Dina with her wild personality and fun antics, and seducing Peter, making him so lovesick that he will - and does - do anything for her. Bebba persuades Dina and Peter to move into a bigger flat with her, and when her murky past catches up with her, the siblings become bound up in her web of deceit.
Dina finds herself in danger and trouble thanks to Bebba, but can’t practically extricate herself from her even though she’s now aware of her true character. Peter thinks he’s making his own choices when he goes to life-changing lengths to protect and help Bebba, but he’s actually being cleverly manipulated and used by her, and he continually fails to see this despite Dina’s attempts to reason with him.
I absolutely sped through this book. Bebba’s escalating devious behaviour, and Dina’s refusal to give up on her dreams, made me eager to see whether Bebba would end up pushing her luck too far, and Dina would manage to get things back on track. Without giving too much away, I found the ending very satisfying, and I inwardly cheered at the two twists in the closing chapters!
She Came to Stay is dazzling, addictive and satisfying, with brilliant characters.