Keep the Home Fires Burning: War at Home, 1915 by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

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Keep the Home Fires Burning: War at Home, 1915 by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The second in the WWI one-book-per-war-year-anniversary series brings surprises and some fascinating historical insights within a comfy family saga that majors on the folks back home.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: June 2015
Publisher: Sphere
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0751556292

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As the calendar page turns to 1915 Jack Hunter is fighting the front. The same goes for Charles Wroughton, leaving his new fiancée Diana to face his aristocratic family (including dreadful Rupert) alone. The country's men are going off in greater numbers as enlistment fever begins to build and women are being brought in to do men's jobs. (Yes, really!) Diana's sister Sadie continues to train horses to be sent to the French front, making her feel as if she's doing something useful. There are also other benefits to the job, seeing more of local vet John Courcy for instance, although their relationship is purely professional… yes, really! Not everything is focused on France though; there's talk of opening up a new front further east on the Turkish coast at a place called Gallipoli.

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles returns us to the world of the Hunter family, their friends, nemeses and servants in this the second of her hist-fict World War I chronicles. The first, Goodbye Piccadilly, covered 1914 and now we've moved on to a world that is in full war mode, including the bombing of British civilians via zeppelins.

As we learn more about them, favourite characters are definitely appearing. One of my all-time favourites is the wonderfully calculating servant Ethel. Knowing a girl has to look after herself by finding a man to look after her, Ethel is being true to her standards. Actually they're beyond standards; they're a list of criteria that include the future prospects for any prospective Mr Ethel. Unfortunately signing up for the forces at wartime would put a crimp in any chap's future prospects and so disqualifies them from Ethel's consideration. Therefore the lass has got to be more selective and also quicker, while there are still men left!

Talking of Ethel, the thing that hits us throughout the novel is the way that Cynthia has with dialogue. The upper class characters have a touch of the clipped Trevor Howard/Celia Johnsons about them, reminding us of a brand of English that existed before Americanisms crossed the world. Yet this isn't at the expense of the lower social orders as Cynthia avoids the slide towards patronising and any 'Blimey Guv!' moments.

The only thing that lets the book down is the limited space that the author has to convey the historically momentous as well as the domestically fascinating. With just over 400 pages to accommodate 12 months and the emphasis being on the folks at home, things like Gallipoli become a passing moment or two. However, our awareness and interest are both piqued and there are more specialist novels that we can move on towards after Cynthia's useful overview.

Having said that, the Hunters' story isn't just a good introduction to WWI; it includes snippets of interest to the knowledgeable as well as the newbie. For instance the rumours that spread with the advance of the German zeppelins are wonderful in their illogicality. I particularly like the idea that some Londoners propagated: the 'zeps' are meant to kill all the UK in their beds so that there wouldn't be anyone left to go and fight.

It's also fascinating to learn that the Ladies' Police Force was instigated to stop white slavers in London; a bygone fact with topical resonances as people being trafficked for sex and forced labour are still an issue in the news. (The more things change…)

The book may be more People's Friend than World at War but that's not a criticism. Once again Cynthia provides us with a story populated by characters we have come to know and care about (apart from Rupert, of course) making it a welcome comfort read.

(Thank you Sphere for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If you haven’t already read it, please do read Goodbye Piccadilly as handy background to how our heroes, heroines and Rupert got to be where they are now. If you've read it and are interested in a mixture of war and domestic fiction that majors on Gallipoli, we recommend Glory by Rachel Billington.

Buy Keep the Home Fires Burning: War at Home, 1915 by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Keep the Home Fires Burning: War at Home, 1915 by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Keep the Home Fires Burning: War at Home, 1915 by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Keep the Home Fires Burning: War at Home, 1915 by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles at Amazon.com.


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