The Long Way Home (The Thomas Family)

Written by Geraint Roberts
Review by Sally Zigmond

This novel is the sequel to By the Banks of the Rheidol, telling the story of Dafydd Thomas, who works for the Cambrian Railways as a fireman, then a driver. The first novel is set in Aberystwyth when Dafydd fell in love with Gwen. When his work took him to England, she became a rich man’s mistress.

In this sequel, World War One is under way and Dafydd returns to Aberystwyth, still angry, heartbroken but determined to forget Gwen. Although as a railwayman, Dafydd is exempt from fighting, he is sick and tired of ignorant white feathers and cruel insults and blows, so he volunteers to work on the railway in Flanders. Although he is not fighting in the trenches, his life is as exhausting, dangerous and horrifying.

This novel is a good read although it needs, like all published novels, a rigorous editor. The problem I have with it is because it’s the second of a two-book series about Dafydd. The author writes that it can be read as a standalone novel. Unfortunately, I disagree. It takes a lot of “’getting into”, especially about Gwen, the love of his life who, to me, takes him too long to understand that Dafydd deserves better. Others may well feel differently.

The Long Way Home is perfect for fans of historical railway fiction. However, its scope is much wider. It is full of love and understanding and shows both the very worst and very best of human behaviour. Moreover, it shows very clearly the vital importance of the railways and its workers in World War One Flanders.