I Can't Begin to Tell You

by Elizabeth Buchan

Books of the Month - <b>May</b> Books with reviews by our Reader Review Panel eBooks of the Month Historical Fiction Modern and Classic Literary Fiction

LoveReading View on I Can't Begin to Tell You

September 2014 Book of the Month.

A major departure for Elizabeth Buchan for this is an espionage tale set mostly in Denmark in the Second World War.  If you are wanting a happy ending don’t touch this.  English-born Kay, married to a Dane, gets involved with the resistance movement and in particular with the wireless operators.  We learn a lot about the training of SOE operators and wireless communication forms a large part of the tale, and we learn a lot about male dominance too.  The work of the resistance operators is deglamourised and made out to be of Heath Robinson standard, very chaotic until late in the war.  This illustrates the sacrifice, compromise and heroism of ordinary people.



Elizabeth Buchan explains how she came to write this book...

'I am intrigued how it is that a writer may have already written on a subject but it refuses to die and it nags away until something is done about it. But, then, who wouldn’t be fascinated by the women who worked in the resistance during the Second World War and/or the Special Operations Executive (SOE) where many of them were trained?


My second novel, Light of the Moon, was about an English girl parachuting into occupied France to work undercover as an agent for the Special Operations Executive where she discovers, like Edith Cavell, that patriotism was not enough. Researching the SOE was addictive and I made many contacts and some cherished new friends who worked in the undercover agencies. They told me, among others, about beautiful, fantastically brave Violette Szabo (Carve Her Name with Pride), the equally splendid and intriguing Christine Granville,  and the extraordinary Nancy Wake - all of whom my friends had known and revered for their cool bravery and resourcefulness. Many of these women met gruesome ends.


Several novels on, my obsession re-surfaced with a splash when I was talking to Noreen Riols about her recently published memoir, The Secret Ministry of Ag & Fish,  which describes her work in SOE’s F-section. Back I found myself – deep into histories, biographies, memoirs and anecdotal evidence. It seemed there was no question of dodging the subject any longer and I Can’t Begin to Tell You began to take shape.' - Click here to read more.

Sarah Broadhurst

I Can't Begin to Tell You Synopsis

Elizabeth Buchan brings us a beautifully told story of courage, love and lies in wartime Europe in her heart-breaking new novel I Can't Begin to Tell You. Denmark, 1940. War has come and everyone must choose a side.






For British-born Kay Eberstern, living on her husband Bror's country estate, the Nazi invasion and occupation of her adopted country is a time of terrible uncertainty and inner conflict. With Bror desperate to preserve the legacy of his family home, even if it means co-existing with the enemy, Kay knows she cannot do the same. Lured by British Intelligence into a covert world of resistance and sabotage, her betrayal of Bror is complete as she puts her family in danger. Tasked with protecting an enigmatic SOE agent, a man who cannot even tell her his name, Kay learns the art of subterfuge. From this moment on, she must risk everything for the sake of this stranger - a stranger who becomes entangled in her world in ways she never expected. Caught on opposing sides of a war that has ripped apart a continent, will Kay and Bror ever find their way back to one another? Elizabeth Buchan's stunning new novel, I Can't Begin to Tell You, is a story of bravery, broken loyalties, lies and how the power of love can bring redemption even to the darkest of places. Praise for Elizabeth Buchan: Gorgeously well-written . (Independent). An irresistible story of love, loss and renewal . (Woman's Own). Elizabeth Buchan's previous novels include Light of the Moon, the prizewinning Consider the Lily, the New York Times bestseller Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman, and her most recent book Daughters. As well as her novels Elizabeth's short stories have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in a range of magazines. Alongside her own fiction writing Elizabeth reviews for the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail, and as a patron of the Guildford Book Festival and of the National Academy of Writing she is a distinctly influential figure in the literary world independent of her fiction. Elizabeth has chaired the Betty Trask and Desmond Elliot literary prizes, has been a judge for the Whitbread (now Costa) awards, and she now sits on a committee for the Reading Agency. She lives in London.

I Can't Begin to Tell You Reader Reviews

In addition, some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

  • Ann Peet - 'Exciting story about the Resistance in Denmark during the war but with an unusual depth and exploration of issues and values.'  Read full review>
  • Anne Rhodes - 'An enthralling story, with heart-stopping moments, of Nazi invasion and war-time Resistance...Don't be put off by the thickness of this book – every page is worth it!'  Read full review>
  • Celia Cohen - 'I found myself caring for each of the characters and willing them to survive. Yes, definitely a must read book.'  Read full review>
  • Sarah Warbey - 'A WW2 espionage thriller that deals with relationships and the power of love and loss.'  Read full review>
  • Sarah Musk - 'An exciting, absorbing story about the terrible dangers Danish Resistance fighters faced in German occupied Denmark.  Elizabeth Buchan has written a really intense book about the human spirit.'  Read full review>
  • Joy Bosworth - 'Be warned - events that took place 70 years ago are so real that the next page matters right now!'  Read full review>
  • Phylippa Smithson - 'I Can't Begin to Tell You cleverly intertwines the evolving role of woman in history, with the focus of the plot being World War 2.'  Read full review>
  • Sarah Jones - 'Interesting, intriguing and inspiring. I was completely involved.'  Read full review>
  • Lynda DeFreitas - 'I found it difficult to put this book down...Elizabeth Buchan is an established author who has written several very good books and this is another one that I highly recommend to you.'  Read full review>
  • Brigitte Colwell - 'A wonderful book, whose characters will stay with me for quite some time, I loved it.' Read full review>
  • Maggie Crane - 'This book is so beautifully written, so easy to read, but so full of intrigue, courage, demonstrating the trials and tribulations of war.'  Read full review>
  • Jean Diamond - 'This gripping story of love, brutality, bravery and divided loyalties makes a compelling read that heightens the emotions as the story reaches its conclusion.' Read full review>
  • Gavin Dimmock - 'I found this an exciting story; the suspense and drama builds wonderfully and pulls you ever further into the lives of the characters.' Read full review>
  • Kim Kirrage - 'I really enjoyed this book. I love the characters. This book is very interesting and it made me keep reading it.' Read full review>

I Can't Begin to Tell You Press Reviews

'Gorgeously well-written'



'An irresistible story of love, loss and renewal'

Woman's Own on Separate Beds

If you loved this, you might like these...

Letters to Iris
A Secret Garden
A Country Escape
Coming Home to Island House

All versions of this book

ISBN: 9780718158002
Publication date: 26/03/2015
Publisher: Michael Joseph Ltd an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9780718158002
Publication date: 26th March 2015
Author: Elizabeth Buchan
Publisher: Michael Joseph Ltd an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 528 pages
Genres: Books of the Month, Reader Reviewed Books, eBook Favourites, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction,
Categories: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945),

About Elizabeth Buchan

Elizabeth Buchan led a double life for a while as a publisher and author, managing to successfully pursue both careers simultaneously, until in 1994 she became a full-time writer and hasn’t looked back since. Her first novel for adults Daughters of the Storm, was set during the French Revolution. Her second, Light of the Moon, took as its subject a female undercover agent operating in occupied France during the Second World War. Her third novel, Consider the Lily, became an international bestseller and sold over 300,000 copies in the UK alone. Her subsequent novel Perfect Love, was described as ‘...

More About Elizabeth Buchan

More Books By Elizabeth Buchan

Cover for The New Mrs Clifton by Elizabeth Buchan
Cover for The New Mrs Clifton by Elizabeth Buchan
Cover for I Can't Begin to Tell You by Elizabeth Buchan
View All Books By Elizabeth Buchan

Share this book