The Great War’s impact on the home front and battlefield is portrayed in Winspear’s (the Maisie Dobbs series) winning stand-alone tale about two girlfriends and how their disparate lives entwine when one of them marries the other’s brother. Kezia and Thea couldn’t be more different: Kezia is a vicar’s daughter and Thea (originally called “Dorrit”—from Dorothea—by her Dickens-loving family) grew up on the family farm as a tomboy, competing with her younger brother, Tom. Both girls were scholarship students, but it’s their differences that bind them. Tensions rise when Kezia becomes engaged to Tom. Thea doubts her city-born friend can manage farm life and, as a dig, gives her The Woman’s Book, a publication advising women on a variety of subjects. Excerpts from it, as well as from military manuals of the time, set up chapters told from varying points of view, including that of Edmund Hawkes, a member of the gentry and Tom’s neighbor, who becomes Tom’s commanding officer. Tom enlists and becomes his sergeant’s whipping boy; Kezia thrives as mistress of the farm; and Thea transforms from being a suffragist and pacifist to running an ambulance on the front lines. To keep up Tom’s spirits, Kezia sends letters detailing the imaginary scrumptious meals she’s prepared for him, which he shares with his comrades. While questioning war’s value and showing its terrible effects off the battlefield, Winspear fashions a stunning trajectory for her main characters. Agent: Amy Rennert, Amy Rennert Agency. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/12/2014 Release date: 07/01/2014 Genre: Fiction
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