Keep the Home Fires Burning

Written by S. Block
Review by Valerie Adolph

A spitfire crashes into a house in the small Cheshire village of Great Paxford. Suddenly World War Two is brought much closer to the women of the village. Life has already brought challenges to these women; the war has exacerbated them. They are used to the bombings of the cities around them, but the immediacy of this crash has brought their issues into even finer focus.

Sustained by their Women’s Institute, its comforting meetings, and the demands it places on them, the women somehow find strength to face their difficulties in ways they could not have imagined before the war. Miriam has her baby just as the spitfire crashes into the house. Pat, unhappily married, loves a soldier from Eastern Europe whom she may never see again.

Problems arise, as most of the men have left to go to war. Their absence is keenly felt both practically and emotionally. Attitudes must change, some easily, others with great difficulty and with collateral damage along the way. Pat is not the only woman who carries a secret.

A sequel to the Home Fires TV series, and written by its creator and writer, this novel fits with the recent trend of books written about women left at home during WW2. To narrow the genre even further, there are novels about women left in rural areas, where village life can become a defining element of the story.

This novel doesn’t fulfill the promise of this genre. The character arcs work well, but the plotting is unsubtle. Written by someone who is more used to writing for television, it is a perfect example of why a writer should show and not tell. The author tells. For almost 500 tedious pages he tells. The result is an emotionally flat record of fictional events.