Monday, March 31, 2014
DANCE THE MOON DOWN (R. L. BARTRAM)
Authors Online|November 4, 2011|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-7552-0682-7
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 Wittaker, 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 sustaines her through the dark days of hardship and privation as her life becomes a battle of faith against adversity.
It is Spring in England, the year 1910 and sixteen-year-old Victoria's parents are arguing as to whether she should attend university or not. Her father wanted her to attend whilst her mother did not but father won the argument. Victoria would be enrolled, however, little did her parents realize then that doing so was about to hurdle her into "a world she was totally unprepared for."
Victoria's father was a doctor and thereby valued higher education. He was also an "ardent reformist and a progressive thinker." He had a private practice in central London, but also believed the poor should have access to health care and therefore devoted some of his time to the less fortunate in the East End.
Victoria's mother, on the other hand, did not want to see her daughter over-educated. She felt that a girl of Victoria's class would never be expected to make her own living. She viewed having a career as "masculine" and felt Victoria's only concern was in lookoing for a suitable husband - marriage would be her career.
Victoria was enrolled at Caufields which was a residential ladies college that specialized in higher education for women. This would be Victoria's first time living away from her parents and she realized she'd no longer be under their rule but that of her tutors instead. She did realize, however, that she'd have blocks of unsupervised time where she could be herself. She did not tell her parents of the mischief she got herself into during these alone times for her mother would blame the college.
It was at Caufield's that Victoria met Beryl Whittacker a "willowy redhead" who was openly opinionated and had radical ideas. She was also involved in "The Women's Social and Political Union" and would "smuggle" their pamphlets into the school at the risk of being expelled. Beryl wanted to live her life without having to conform to a man's ideals. Beryl wasn't opposed to marriage only that it was offered to women as their only option in life.
Victoria met Gerald Avery at a neighbouring college when he got up to recite a poem he'd written. Victoria was instantly smitten to this tall, broad shouldered man. Gerald noticed Victoria's glances and sought her out at the end of the evening.
As Victoria and Gerald used every opportunity to continue meeting, rumors of a developing war began. Neither of them could believe that the "political unrest in a place like Serbia...could somehow plunge the whole of Europe into a war..." It was to them simply crazy that "superior nations like Britain and Germany would come to blows over nothing more than an unpopular Archduke and an insignificant blot on the map."
By age nineteen, Victoria had completed her last year at Caufield's and Gerald asked her to marry him and she accepted.
The war did come after the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had been assassinated by a young Serb. All of Europe was getting involved and on August 4th Britain declared war on Germany. Volunteers were needed to enlist and Gerald was one of them, for no true patriot could fail to answer the call. Victoria knew in her heart of hearts that Gerald would respond to the call. She tried arguing with him even telling him he might be killed. She was in tears but Gerald's sense of duty won out.
Due to his education, Gerald was commissioned as a second Lieutenant in the West Sussex Yeomanry. The day finally arrived for Gerald to depart and after exchanging momentos with each others photos, a long-lasting kiss, Gerald was gone. Nothing would ever be quite the same again.
It wasn't long before Victoria got word that Gerald was missing. She didn't know if he was dead or alive. Was he a prisioner of war or had he been killed or was he missing in action? Her heart was broken to say the least but she refused to believe he was dead.
Although Gerald had left Victoria with some money, it wasn't enough to provide for her lodgings and food long-term so she was forced to find work. She ended up on Orchardlea farm where her entire life was about to change. It is at Orchardlea that she befriends three women who become inseparable and share the most intimate of details of their lives and share a special bond. One of them in particular, saves Jen from an unspeakable act of desperation.
DANCE THE MOON DOWN deals very well with the sorrow and grief that the women left behind go through when men trudge off to war. When your husband, father, brother, or son are sent off to war you don't often think of the wives, the mothers and sisters left behind and what they experience and go through. It would be heartbreaking to find yourself in such a circumstance.
I so thoroughly enjoyed this book that I just couldn't put it down and read it in one sitting! I just had to keep turning the pages to find out what was happening next. I especially enjoyed the relationship between Victoria and her three friends at the farm. They had a bond like no other. It was well-written, engaging, engrossing, well-paced, and the characters were well developed and I fell in love with the women of Orchardlea and the bond they shared. It was a phenomenal novel!!
I would like to thank R.L. Bartram for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The words written here are completely my own. I will be highly recommending this book to friends and relatives.