Melvyn Bragg, Author . Arcade $25.95 (426p) ISBN 978-1-55970-686-5

This is the second volume of a trilogy that began with The Soldier's Return, about a family in a little town in Cumbria, in the northwest of England, in the years following WWII; the trilogy has been heralded in Bragg's native Britain as his masterwork. It is certainly, in its first two volumes, a highly impressive achievement, spinning an utterly convincing tale of small lives that embrace large issues of faith, courage, endurance and aspiration. Sam Richardson, a thoughtful working man whose life has been enlarged by his war experience in Burma, continues to find it difficult to settle back into Wigton, and eventually finds independence in taking over an old pub and bringing it back to life. This is hard on his wife, Ellen, whose dream of a more intimate home has to be given up; she has to realize, too, that her half-brother Colin, who suddenly surfaces with news of her cherished but mysterious father but is shifty and evasive, is not the kind of man Sam can tolerate. And young Joe, their son, entering a painful adolescence beset by nameless fears, has to straddle the disparate worlds and demands of his mother and father, trying to be at once tough and tender. Bragg has a remarkable knack for entering into the hearts and minds of his characters, and his understanding of their milieu, still an almost feudal one in many respects even in the mid–20th century, is acute. This is an old-fashioned book in the best sense: sympathetic, leisurely, absorbing and warmly believable. (July)

Forecast:Bragg is a writer of many gifts whose work is not as well known here as it should be; most booksellers will have plenty of customers, primarily older ones, who would respond strongly to this and his other books.

Reviewed on: 06/02/2003
Release date: 07/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7540-0795-1
Paperback - 426 pages - 978-1-55970-720-6
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-1-61145-105-4
Open Ebook - 999 pages - 978-1-61145-954-8
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-1-62872-578-0
Open Ebook - 432 pages - 978-1-62872-636-7
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