For Better or Worse
Stella and Captain John Nolan meet while he is convalescing from wounds suffered in battle, and after a whirlwind eight-week courtship, they marry. Wartime romance is not uncommon during the Great War, but after one week together he returns to the front and is tragically killed as the armistice is signed. Stella has no family to help her through this tragedy, and the invitation to John’s home for the holidays is a welcome one. However, the cold reception she receives from his mother and sister, Rosalie, breaks her spirit. Invited to stay, she finds that her greatest allies are her father-in-law and Rosalie’s husband Phillip, who was injured in the war and is now crippled as well as dispirited. Her work with the soldiers before her marriage, combined with a strong spirit, moves Stella forward to help Phillip and to stand up for herself in her new role. We cheer for her as she seeks happiness and independence at last, and can again find love in a place where so many people work against one another.
Elizabeth Jeffrey draws us into this sometimes dysfunctional middle-class British family by telling their story from conversations that their staff has below stairs. She gives us a good look at how returning war veterans are affected emotionally and physically by their circumstances and how both classes deal with the fates bestowed upon them. We see the devotion and faithful relationship of the kitchen maid, Emma, with her shell-shocked husband, which contrasts with the actions of her selfish, unfeeling mistress, Rosalie. This book is a must read for those of us who enjoy a nice slice of early 20th century history, and its beautiful cover will grace your bookshelf.