jueves, 4 de diciembre de 2008

Over By Christmas by William Daysh

Over By Christmas by William Daysh is a war novel. It is also a superb novel in which real events, imagined histories, human relationships and politics intertwine. These elements are combined via a beautifully paced narrative whose use of multiple forms only adds to its clarity. While naval battles of the first half of World War One are described, we encounter some of the politics that generate their necessity. We see the in-fighting and posturing around the desire to avoid responsibility. We share the priority of a Prime Minister who, amidst the pressure of decision, remains obsessed with a young woman – and not for the first time! – a woman to whom he is compelled to write, often several times a day.

There are numerous factual reports of the war. These provide the background, the context to allow us to position the experience of the book’s characters. And central to these are the Royals, not the rulers in London, but a naval family in Gosport, Portsmouth. Jack the father and George the son are seamen, while Emily, wife and mother, is their home port. In his spare time, which seems to be quite sparse, George is a bit of a lad. He is a handsome, honest type who falls for two girls in particular, Carrie and Carla. The first is a single mother, left encumbered but compensated by a period of “service”. The latter, a minor character with a major role, is a dusky-skinned, half-Italian shop assistant. And then there’s Bill, who takes up with Carrie, and then later with a Mr Paxman to further his growing business interests.

But throughout there is the war. Throughout there is the threat of suffering alongside the daily reality of early death, the hell of battle. War, and especially this one, claims many lives and takes them arbitrarily, though never without loss for those who survive. The wounded, it seems, sometimes have to cope with more than death.

George emerges as the central character of Over By Christmas. We follow him repeatedly to and from Portsmouth. He sees The Pacific and the South Atlantic. He sails around Britain into the North Sea. He is in Malta and Gallipoli. Above all, he is in the war, perhaps not muddied in trenches, but permanently threatened by torpedo, shell and sea. He makes friends, is loyal, and gallant and is promoted.

But throughout, his passion for Carrie remains. Chances to reconcile their differences, to realise their shared love are rare, but important moments. And then…

And then this is the beauty of Over By Christmas. The narrative engages the reader in its characters’ lives. In twists and turn it surprises, but in the end we have merely the complications of human relationships. Warfare is about sparring, about conflict, imagined gains and suffered losses. Affairs of the heart may demonstrate strikingly similar qualities.

View this book on amazon
Over By Christmas

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