The opening of this debut novel is set in the 1930s. Edward and Ann are a happily married Canadian couple. Edward receives an invitation to attend the unveiling of a war memorial at Vimy Ridge, one of the places where he fought during the Great War. The invitation re-awakes memories of the trenches, and deep-buried emotions of a war-time relationship. Through flashbacks we learn of his life as a Signalman and the violence, fear, and courage that he endured as a front-line soldier. Part of his decision to attend the unveiling is fuelled by a desire to find his French love, Helene, the woman he met during those dark days of war, and to discover what had happened to her. When the Second World War looms, Edward is faced by more emotional disturbance and the making of difficult decisions.
This moving novel is an emotional ride through memories, both harsh and cruel and loving and gentle. Expertly written and researched, the sights, sounds, smells, and experiences of those young men during a time of unimaginable horrors is brought vividly to life.
I was not sure if I liked Edward at first. He seemed somewhat self-centred, but as the story unravelled his character became more understandable. Here was a man who had seen Hell, and survived the ordeal by believing in his inner reserve and stoicism.
Ann’s reactions to her husband’s emotions endeared her to me. Their relationship is tested to the hilt and her own struggle to survive a second war – and the disruption to her marriage – was beautifully, and believably, written.
There is an abundance of superbly written detail woven into the story, done with skill and compassion. In addition, the presentation of the book is on a par with any mainstream published book, from the quality of the cover to the layout of text; this is how all indie published books should look and feel: professional.
A passionate, unmissable read.