viernes, 27 de agosto de 2010

The Steps Of The Sun by Caroline Harvey, aka Joanna Trollope

I approached The Steps Of The Sun not knowing what to expect. Its author was listed as Joanna Trollope writing as Caroline Harvey. I had previously read nothing in either name. But it struck me that if you wanted a nom de plume, then Non de Plume was not a good choice. I persevered, however, largely because I have also never read a novel set in the Boer War.

The Steps Of The Sun presents life amongst a middle-class set whose lives are turned upside down by the conflict. Matthew Paget is a college lad, son of a churchman, and he is seeking something exciting out of life. His passions sometimes take him that step too far. He enlists to fight in South Africa without his family’s backing or even knowledge.

Will Marriott, his cousin, is a military type and also thinks that way to boot. He performs his duty when required and is proud to represent his country in battle.

Hendon Bashford is the obvious cad. He’s half Boer but considers himself true-blood English. His contribution to the conflict will always be against his own people, which ever side he joins.

There are women in The Steps Of The Sun. Adelaide is the most interesting. She flirts with pacifism, even meets journalists. But then she assists the war in her own way. Matthew’s sister, Frances, tends to the prissy. And then there’s a Boer girl who is twice excused her fate. First her home is not burned down – at least today – and second, apparently unlike all other Boer women, as we are told, she is not pregnant.

There are some interesting aspects to the book. A description of the war’s concentration camps is welcome, as is Adelaide’s conflict of interest. But overall what promised to be an intriguing read tended to gloss over the military, fragment the history and barely visit the country. The Steps Of The Sun was still worth reading, but its high points were quite well buried.

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