Dreams That Veil by Dominic Luke
|Dreams That Veil by Dominic Luke|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A book of two halves set among the upper class and their servants just before the WWI shift in ideas; the first half may need some patience but the second half is well worth waiting for.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: June 2015|
|Publisher: Buried River Press|
12-year-old Eliza Brannan is looking forward to a wonderful summer. She and her older cousin Dorothea will be joined at home by Eliza's university student brother Roderick and the sun-drenched days will stretch out before them. Unfortunately the reality isn't the same as the dream; this is the summer when life changes. Dorothea and Roderick will pursue futures that no one had predicted and a foreign house guest will open Eliza's eyes to the world outside her outgrown nursery. There again, this is 1914; a year heralding a change in life for more than just the Brannan household.
Thijs is the fifth novel from British author Dominic Luke and the third featuring the Brannans. In Nothing Undone Remains (February 2015) we followed the schoolboy Roderick and his burgeoning relationship with Dorothea (Doro). Before that Autumn Softly Fell (February 2014) outlined Doro's abandonment by her father and how she came to live with the Brannans. Now we're being brought up to date as these literary pigeons come home to roost. As well as an examination of the political changes that will touch all corners of Europe, Doro sets out to find her father as a way of seeking personal closure (as it's now termed) and romantic futures take an unexpected turn.
Dominic parallels the British upper classes' loss of innocence as war approaches with that of the story's individuals. By the end of the novel no one is the same as at the beginning, much like the outside world between the beginning of the year and the end.
In the novel the narrator is Eliza, cosseted by her mother who doesn't realise her daughter's resourcefulness and that her curiosity will find a route. Meanwhile brother Roderick has become an upper class bigot, encouraged by Mrs Brannan. She in turn sits like a King Canute on the shore of modernism, her ideas and customs bringing light relief as we side with our narrator.
To be fair, I haven't read the first two in the series which may have made a difference to me when I started this book. However, for me this is a book of two halves as, at the beginning, characters are swished in along lines of stereotypical casting and shallow personalities. At first issues such as the Russian Revolution seem to be ticked off via passing dinner party chatter while we nod, thinking we can predict how the novel is going to go. The introduction of German and Russian protagonists just seems to cement this feeling. BUT don't be too sure; the second half changes gear in a highly satisfying way.
Things start to lighten when Doro begins the search for her past with a persistent child in tow, adding a great deal of interest as this child is Eliza, interpreting this alien world to the rest of us. Then there are the saviours of the novel: the wonderful Kolya Antipov and Rosa Halstead. Like alchemists they bring golden moments, brightening up the household and Eliza's education. Kolya's tutoring of Eliza in political equality leads to her practising it in one of my favourite scenes. Meanwhile suffragette Rosa puts more than one stick in the spokes of Mrs Brannan, and a breath of fresh air to the pages.
If the first half of the novel had matched the second, it would be a 5* shoo-in. Dominic does indeed have the talent to hold our attention and, as we slide towards the conflict – and conflicts plural where the family is concerned - we have a feeling that he will get another chance to demonstrate this. The hints for Brannans Book 4 are there and, with appetite suitably whetted, I'm looking forward to it.
(Thank you, Buried River Press, for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If the period pre and post WWI appeals, we highly recommend the wonderful The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman, looking at the post-war effects. If you would like to follow a family saga, then Cynthia Harrod-Eagles book a year, corresponding with 100 years ago is waiting for you. Book 1 is Goodbye Piccadilly.
You can read more book reviews or buy Dreams That Veil by Dominic Luke at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Dreams That Veil by Dominic Luke at Amazon.com.
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