In Pale Battalions
In Pale Battalions is a complex novel. The tale seemingly begins with the death of Leonora’s father in April 1916. The novel itself is dedicated to the memory of Frederick John Goddard who, like Leonora’s father, was declared missing in action and presumed dead in World War I. In Leonora’s case, her father cannot be her father: her date of birth is nearly a full year after her father’s disappearance. A sordid mystery.
The story is told in multiple parts, set across separate time points and is narrated by different characters. Begun by Leonora to her daughter, Penelope, on a visit to the Thiepval Memorial, the story is taken up in Hampshire, England, by a friend of Leonora’s father. But the book’s journey is more than a simple explanation of a child’s illegitimacy.
Robert Goddard tells this story in a style and with details that evoke a sense of the period and the characters. The language of the narratives is precise and captivating. For me there was no question of not turning the page, of not wanting to know what truly happened that could have guided Leonora’s life along its path, right down to the last revelation. A suspense-filled novel that doesn’t disappoint.