The Storms of War by Kate Williams
|The Storms of War by Kate Williams|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: Deeply researched and intelligently written, "The Storms of War" brings Edwardian England to life - life overshadowed by the war that is recreated here in vivid and visceral fashion. Historical fiction that mostly manages to be both cerebral and educational without feeling dull.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 528||Date: March 2015|
England - 1914. The de Witt family live in Stoneythorpe Hall, an English manor that allows them to lead lives of relative luxury. Behind the ornate doors and heavy drapes of the house though, things are less than ideal - the approaching shadow of war makes things increasingly difficult for German born Rudolf, and Verena struggles to find her role in both the home and society. With their sons studying, one daughter marrying and one fast growing up, war will change all that these people know, and force them to either adapt, or suffer untold consequences.
Kate Williams is a historian, television presenter and author, with a number of very successful books to her name, including a fantastic biography of Lord Nelson's mistress, Emma Hamilton. A first fiction novel The Pleasures of Men arrived in 2012, and was a dark look at the grimy Victorian underbelly of London - and a decent read to boot.
The Storms of War is a lighter read - but one that is nonetheless a dark and stormy one. A book that is essentially in two parts, we come to know the family as they deal with the ever approaching war, and then we follow them as they are plunged into it - and see the horrors of war torn France, the trenches, and the difficulties of living in a country that has suddenly become hostile to all of your nationality. Some reviews have compared this to Downton Abbey, and others Atonement - and I understand both, although this feels somewhat more realistic than the heightened soapiness of Downton, and blends light and shade better than the wonderful but heartily depressing Atonement.
First and foremost, this is a book about people, and the effect war has on them. The war feels personal and all the more painful for it - with none of the detachment that history books offer. As such, this is often a difficult read, but the strong characters make the reader root for them and keep turning the pages.
Historical Fiction is a genre that is hugely popular, but despite the large number of novels about the First World War you may ask what it is about this book that makes it stand out. The main point for me was the fact that this book was clearly carefully plotted - characters grow and develop very naturally, and the depiction of war feels well thought out and genuine - letting us see it through the eyes of a whole family means it can be described and explored in far more detail than a book just set in the trenches could, with emotional consequences relayed to harrowing effect.
This is the first of a series, and whilst I wasn't swept away, the characters are so well built up that I look forward to reading about them again - particularly Celia, a character who grows and matures hugely, and looks to be the centre character for this trilogy.
A good book, and a must for those interested in this period of history - many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
As mentioned above, Atonement by Ian McEwan is a dark and rather disturbing read, but nevertheless is an excellent exploration of war, betrayal and guilt. Set in the Second World War rather than the Great War in which The Storms of War is set, it is a moving and character driven story that follows a young woman over the course of several years.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Storms of War by Kate Williams at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Storms of War by Kate Williams at Amazon.com.
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