The Redeemed: The West Country Trilogy
The Redeemed follows the lives of two main characters during and after World War I. Leo Sercombe starts the book as a ship’s boy aboard the battleship Queen Mary, heading out to sea and, unbeknownst to him, to the Battle of Jutland, while Lottie Prideaux seeks to take advantage of the new opportunities that war has brought young women and studies to be a vet. When the war ends, both use the skills they have learned to build lives for themselves in a changing world, while longing to return to one another.
The novel explores themes of love and loss, war and peace, and the desire for a life in which individuals can be true to their selves and their emotions, free from the expectations of class and gender. The descriptions of life on board ship, and Leo’s subsequent experience as a diver salvaging parts of the German fleet in Scapa Flow, are vivid and exciting. Lottie’s experiences as she trains, and then builds up her veterinary practice, despite setbacks, are fascinating and moving. Above all, Pears’ evocation of a world on the brink of a huge change in the years after World War I – the countryside on the cusp of mechanisation, old patriarchal and aristocratic relationships starting to evolve into something new – is both wistful and hopeful.
Although the third in a trilogy, The Redeemed stands in its own right. It is a beautiful, elegiac novel, written with great sensitivity and delicacy. Highly recommended.