I have mixed feelings about this book!
I really liked the historical/World War I element. I learned more about the frustrations with the way the war was ‘managed’ rather than fought strategically and the huge losses that resulted. However, the characters themselves did not become ‘real’ to me and I couldn’t engage with them (on the whole).
The author attempts to show how the world war changed Europe and much of the world not only politically and geographically, but socially and culturally.
The women in this book were not portrayed in a sympathetic or admirable manner (which causes me to question how well the author knew women…)
“Hanna listened to the stuttering roar of a car engine as the machine receded down the driveway toward the Abingdon road a mile away. That would be Lydia and Alexandra leaving for London, she reasoned correctly, refilling her coffee cup from a silver pot. She did not entirely approve of women driving cars, although more and more of them were doing so these days… Alexandra had begged that she be given driving lessons, but the countess had refused to allow it.”
Ivy Thaxton, a servant who becomes a nurse to serve in France, is contrasted with Alexandra Greville, an earl’s daughter whose sheltered life predisposes her to fainting when she also signs up for nursing the wounded. Lydia Foxe, a prosperous heiress, is manipulative and unfaithful, a character no one would want to emulate.
The book is written from the perspective of several of the main characters, switching back and forth between life in England, life as a war-correspondent-journalist, and life as an officer in the trenches.
“The lord’s fist came down on the stack of journals like a hammer.
“We will win. We’ll win because if we do not, we cease to exist as a nation, let alone as an empire. The man in the street wants this war to be won. There is firm resolve on that point, and neither this newspaper nor any other will print stories that serve to undermine that determination by castigating our military leadership and eroding the people’s faith in the army to win through…eventually.”
Martin smiled wryly and took from his pocket the tiny white feather and let it drift to the table.
“Part of that resolve you’re talking about, I suppose. It was shoved into my hand outside Waterloo Station by a very pretty girl.”
“It’s symptomatic, yes. I can’t say that I approve of that kind of badgering, but it does reveal what the civilian population feels about this war. They want an all-out effort – every young man of fighting age in uniform, the Boche and the Turk on the run, no matter what it takes. They read the casualty lists … no one draws the wool over their eyes on that bloody score. They know how many lads died at Aubers Ridge … Neuve-Chapelle… and are dying now in the Dardanelles, and they would hang any newspaperman in effigy who told them that those men died for nothing.”
Martin (an American journalist) became my favorite character, but his personal life could have been better illustrated. The end of the book has a surprise for the reader that would have been much more interesting had we been given more details to help the reader identify with Martin’s tragic circumstances.
I do want to read the next book in the series, despite the fact that this novel at times for me, was a bit hard to swallow. Although there were some scenes that were too graphic for me (scenes I was able to skip over), it kept my interest and I found that I want to learn more about the battles fought in World War I.