The Lost Soldier

Written by Diney Costeloe
Review by Marilyn Sherlock

The story begins in Dorset in 1921. Eight ash trees have been planted on a village green to commemorate eight men who died in WWI, but then a ninth tree appears. Who planted it and why? The story moves forward to 2001, when there is dissension in the village. Developers want to build more houses and, as a sop to the villagers, have promised to replace the old and rather decrepit village hall, but access to the new houses, which will be built on the old allotments, will involve cutting down the ash trees. Opinion is strongly divided, with some of the residents adamant that this should not happen. All remaining relatives of the dead men are to be consulted, but still nobody knows who was responsible for the ninth tree, let alone whether there are there any surviving relatives to consult. Rachel Elliott, a local reporter, is determined to find out.

This is an unusual angle on the events of WWI, which I found very interesting.  Although a work of fiction it is based very firmly on the facts and attitudes of the time, and the story is entirely plausible as it unfolds, switching between the war years and the present day. Well worth reading.  (The book was previously published under the title The Ashgrove in 2004.)