Upon a Wheel of Fire
Upon a Wheel of Fire is a thoughtful, era-spanning, epic novel that moves from WW1 through the interwar years to WW2 in Europe and beyond.
The main character, Yves Beauchamp, reflects back on his life, with his story being carefully divided into moving, interesting and lengthy episodes. His life is a fascinating and exciting one: trench warfare in France in 1917, friendship with heroic Thompson in battle, meetings with some of the peace negotiators at the Versailles treaty, marital joys with a French nurse, a relationship with German war “friend” Werner (with his views on the war and Versailles) and much more.
The writing appears to be historically sound, is well researched and introduces some unusual and lesser known angles and perspectives on both wars and the period in-between. Grieve has created some impeccable characters; Katherine and Werner in particular transgress the usual stereotypes and wooden functionality that foreign characters in historical fiction so often are reduced to: in this novel, they tend to serve a lot more than the mere illustration of an outsider’s view or to aid the plot or a discussion. The fictional side of this novel is every bit as good as the historic angles. Definitely one of the better ones in this crowded corner of the genre.