The Measure of Days
In this, the 30th book in the Morland family saga, the euphoria of the early war years is evaporating. There is stalemate in the trenches of Flanders, and war-time privations are affecting everyone on the home front. The old certainties of the importance of social rank and the proper role of women are also eroding – and this allows new opportunities for women.
Jessie Morland, whose husband is missing, believed dead, comes to London to work in a military hospital as a VAD nurse. Venetia, Lady Overton, is given government help to pursue the development of the new X-ray machines, help which has previously been denied her. Her daughter, Violet, is initially cocooned from the war, wrapped up in her affair with the brilliant artist Octavian Laidislaw. But when his intimate portrait of her goes on public show, scandal erupts. Violet’s husband, cuckolded so publicly, will stop at nothing to destroy Laidislaw – and he has friends in high places.
As the British Army gets ready for ‘the big push’ in 1916, all the women know that when they say good-bye to their loved ones it might be for the last time…
The author has written an engrossing story, historically accurate and with well-rounded characters. She has also captured that difficult thing, the zeitgeist of the time. Chaperonage is still an issue for unmarried women, and even the recently-widowed Jessie, has to get permission to meet an officer who is not related to her, on her afternoon off. The soldiers still subscribe to the ‘must do our duty and fight for our country’ ethos, but a new cynicism is creeping in as shortages of vital supplies, together with military incompetence lead to increasing casualties. If you enjoy sagas, this is one of the best.