The Deserter’s Daughter

Written by Susanna Bavin
Review by Julie Parker

This is a debut novel set in Chorlton, Manchester in the years after The Great War. It is a gripping page-turner which is told from the perspective of various main characters. The story concerns two families: the poor struggling Jenkinses and the better off, well connected Armstrongs. The characters are well delineated and convincing and the dialogue realistic. The Jenkins family consists of Mrs Jenkins, a widowed mother, and her two daughters, Evadne and Carrie. Evadne is the daughter of Mrs Jenkins’ first husband, who was killed in the war and had the surname Baxter. She is rather snooty and tries to hang on to her Baxter grandfather, who has money and position. Carrie is the nice sister and engaged to be married but is already in the family way. The Armstrongs consist of the father, Joseph, who runs an antique business with son Ralph, and the other, much nicer, son called Adam. Adam is a doctor working in a local hospital trying new treatments for shell-shocked soldiers. The reader knows that Ralph is an evil villain from the start. Events start to spiral out of control when the daughters, and their neighbours, find out that Mr Jenkins had been shot for desertion. There is a heart-tugging episode in the middle of the book, which will have you reaching for the tissues, but the ending gives hope for the future.