Synopsis: In 1910, no one believed there would ever be a war with Germany. Safe in her affluent middle-class life, the rumours held no significance for Victoria either. It was her father's decision to enroll her at university that began to change all that. There she befriendes the rebellious and outspoken Beryl Whittaker, an emergent suffragette, but it is her love for Gerald Avery, a talented young poet from a neighbouring university that sets the seal on her future. After a clandestine romance, they marry in January 1914, but with the outbreak of the First World War, Gerald volunteeres but within months has gone missing in France. Convinced that he is still alive, Victoria's initial attempts to discover what has become of him, implicate her in a murderous assault on Lord Kitchener resulting in her being interrogated as a spy, and later tempted to adultery. Now virtually destitute, Victoria is reduced to finding work as a common labourer on a run down farm, where she discovers a world of unimaginable ignorance and poverty. It is only her conviction that Gerald will some day return that sustaines her through the dark days of hardship and privation as her life becomes a battle of faith against adversity. (From Goodreads)
From My Perspective:
This historical romance came as a surprise to me. Our main character, Victoria, is of the upper class and it took me awhile to warm up to her. I admired her silence and reverence when she supported her husband's patriotism and entrance into the British Militia. and I could empathize with her. However when he went missing, I was not very forgiving of the relationship that developed between her and the officer assigned to look into Gerald's whereabouts for her. But when she took up a position as a labourer on a run down farm, I gained an altogether new appreciation for her and the respect and kindness she offered to her coworkers. And I loved that she never gave up believing Gerald was still alive!
Bartram did an excellent job of bringing his characters to life.. They were so real with high ideals and dreams and flaws we all must overcome. He possessed a realistic depiction of the lands ravaged by war, and of the people's fears as the war went on and on. It was very interesting to note that women were considered subservient and had very few rights, although with the raging of the war, the political stage was ripe for change in that respect.
I seriously enjoyed reading about the first World War from an English woman's perspective. I admired Victoria's common sense and her tenacity which almost got her in trouble a time or two. And I liked that although the war front was indeed devastating, the workers on the farm had opportunities for light hearted activities such as feeding an old work horse apples or taking a dip in a creek to cool off--naked!
Bartram's style flows smoothly, his story well told and his characters very well developed. I'm rating this read at 4 WINKS!! A very different but enjoyable read!