Sunday, 11 August 2013

Review: Dance The Moon Down - RL Bartram

Reviewer: John
Rating 5 out of 5 Fairies

At first, I was somewhat worried by the cast list at the front of the book, there seemed to be so many characters to remember; my worries were unfounded though, I never had to refer to the list, as most of the characters they passed into & out of the narrative as it unfolded.

The book is undoubtedly historically accurate and paints a picture of WW1 that most of us will be unfamiliar with, that of the effect of the war at home. The story is based around the life of Victoria, an upper middle class lady as she passes from the privileged life of her upbringing in the early pages of the book, through marriage to the love of her life & the subsequent reality of a life experience she could never have imagined.

I think most of us have some idea of the muddy hell the soldiers lived through, there is enough newsreel evidence of that; but at home life was difficult in its own way; the lack of information about the fate of loved ones; the poverty & hardship of the working classes in the pre-welfare state. The way that the suffragettes had to fight so hard to gain voting rights for women, & how they were treated as criminals for wanting something we take for granted these days.

I wasn’t too sure about this book at first, but I found I really wanted to read on once I started; I could picture many of the scenes in the book, I drew mental pictures of the various characters as they were so well described & their stories came to life.
In 1910, no one believed there would ever be a war with Germany. Safe in her affluent middle-class life, the rumours held no significance for Victoria either. It was her father's decision to enroll her at university that began to change all that. There she befriends the rebellious and outspoken Beryl Whittaker, an emergent suffragette, but it is her love for Gerald Avery, a talented young poet from a neighbouring university that sets the seal on her future. 
After a clandestine romance, they marry in January 1914, but with the outbreak of the First World War, Gerald volunteers but within months has gone missing in France. Convinced that he is still alive, Victoria's initial attempts to discover what has become of him, implicate her in a murderous assault on Lord Kitchener resulting in her being interrogated as a spy, and later tempted to adultery. 
Now virtually destitute, Victoria is reduced to finding work as a common labourer on a run down farm, where she discovers a world of unimaginable ignorance and poverty. It is only her conviction that Gerald will some day return that sustains her through the dark days of hardship and privation as her life becomes a battle of faith against adversity.
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