The Burning Roses
This, the 29th book in the Morland family saga, is set in 1915. The nation is at war. Jessie Morland, struggling with depression following a miscarriage, plunges into war work. Her husband Ned is off to the Western Front, just in time for the new offensive. Bertie, whose love of Jessie is more than cousinly, is also off to war. The old order is breaking down and new possibilities are opening up, especially for the women.
The story is engrossing and well-written and, with the aid of the family tree, I easily picked up the threads. The novel stands alone, but the ending is open; none of the characters’ personal stories have a resolution here.
What impressed me was the author’s ability to create characters who are fully of their time, whilst still engaging the reader’s interest. Maria, a respectable young woman, cannot meet her Frank unchaperoned, for example; Ned and Bertie subscribe to the contemporary patriotic ethos of fighting for civilization and keeping a stiff upper lip. The male characters’ discussions of battle tactics are obviously accurate if, at times, overlong. Nevertheless, one gets a very real sense of how it must have felt living in that difficult year.