Those Measureless Fields

Written by Caroline Scott
Review by Ann Northfield

Laurence Greene is gassed at Ypres, but does not die until ten years later. This is a timely reminder that the effects of war can be far-reaching and powerful, even after everything has stopped and peace has been restored. His death, in a way, contrasts sharply to a Europe in the process of renewal and rebuilding.

Effie Shaw has been looking after Laurence as his cook, housekeeper and sweet-toothed baker. She does not realise until afterwards how important they were to each other. Effie has also been mourning her own loss of her fiancé, Joe. Laurence leaves her instructions to follow, starting her off on a journey of discovery, which will take her to Paris and the famous battlegrounds. His letters and diaries allow her and the reader to relive the experiences of the soldiers in general and of Joe and Laurence in particular, from the idealistic beginning of training to the grim reality of battle as she follows through the written word their disillusionment.

Effie is encouraged and assisted on her quest by Henry, another wounded soldier she encounters by accident and by Laurence’s dog, Reginald. Humour and pathos, well-researched details and clearly imagined experiences abound throughout the novel. It is poignant with quite a few twists and turns along the way, even with the hindsight the modern reader brings to this era. Thoughtful and unusual in narrative structure, this is a compelling tale of love, loss, secrets and lies.