The Silent Land by David Dunham
|The Silent Land by David Dunham|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: An interesting study of bereavement set pre- and post-WWI. A poignant tale through a woman's viewpoint throughout that won't scare the horses or male readers with an especially effective second half.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: June 2016|
Rebecca's mother dies just as 1903 turns over to 1904, triggering a move and total change of life for Rebecca and her father. They reluctantly (in Rebecca's case) leave village life behind them to enter the spotlight of London society. This will influence the young lady as she becomes a woman, falls in love and marries. However these changes are nothing compared to the conflict bubbling under the surface in Europe. The hot summer of 1914 is the prelude to loss in many lives, including Rebecca's.
British author David Dunham wanted to explore the different types of bereavement in the life of a woman. To do this he takes us back to the turn of the 20th century, introduces us to someone about to step over the threshold into womanhood, and then throws the full force of tragedy at her… poor lass! However, even knowing that she will lose her mother, father and husband (it's in the book synopses on-line) the novel unfolds in such a way that we're willingly enticed to read on.
Rebecca's love life and courtship is portrayed in a very matter of fact way; a good thing for two reasons. Firstly it's lacking the soppy language and hearts and flowers stuff that would deter a male readership. Secondly, the book contains the obvious contrasts between love, war and loss and yet by making Rebecca's peacetime love life and courtship so matter of fact, the contrasts are a lot stronger. The real passion comes into the tale once war is declared, really giving us a jolt after the gentle meander of the first half.
As intended the tale works both as a study of grief and also as historical fiction. For instance it shows that, although emotion and loss are timeless, society's treatment of it has differed down the ages. There are also demonstrations of the xenophobia that war elicits from the unlikeliest of people and how truth is indeed the first casualty. Indeed, we witness the frustration of those at home having to garner what news they can from rumour, blatantly incomplete and inaccurate newspaper accounts and the contradictory eye witness reports of those coming back.
As it's all from Rebecca's viewpoint our knowledge of battles such as Mons comes via these reports and received letters. As she grows tired of just waiting, our view is widened further since Rebecca becomes a nurse which enables David to extend his remit further by looking at the nation's bereavement.
David also cleverly builds in twists connected to the deaths of Rebecca's mother and, later, her husband. The latter keeps us guessing till we reach the heart wrenching – and far reaching – revelation. The surprise regarding her mother's death is guessable, the suspense coming from when Rebecca will find out and how she'll take it. The answer to that comes on the very last page, giving us a feeling of closure as we finish a memorable journey.
(Thank you to the folk at Matador for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you'd like to read more historical fiction surrounding WWI and its aftermath, we also recommend Bleakly Hall by Elaine di Rollo.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Silent Land by David Dunham at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Silent Land by David Dunham at Amazon.com.
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