Anything marked “historical fiction” gets my attention right away and I’ve been in a World War I fiction zone for a little while so I was very happy that my entering the giveaway paid off.
The book is sort of the parallel stories of Angus MacGrath and his son, Simon Peter. Angus goes to war and Simon fights his own war of sorts at home. It’s a compelling idea from the get-go.
I was skeptical at first that Angus would willing enlist in the middle of a war for no other reason than to try and find his missing and presumed dead brother-in-law, Ebbin. Maybe that’s the anti-war pacifist in me speaking, I don’t know. Needless to say, one of the characters I identified most with was Angus’ father, Duncan.
I don’t know if P.S. Duffy intended it exactly, but this book really is the story of fathers and sons, just set in war. Duncan watches his son go off to do things that he doesn’t approve of and yet he loves his son dearly, having given up a life for him. Angus knows he’s risking his father’s anger and that maybe he’s abandoning his son, but he wants them both to proud of him. Simon is proud of his father, until the end when he realizes his father isn’t necessarily proud of himself, and he ends up siding with his grandfather when other teenage boys are fully caught up in war-fever.
The focus of the book switches back and forth between Angus and Simon. Angus’ story is the deeper, more developed one but Simon’s is no less important.
The weakest part of the book, though, is the ending. It starts off heart-breaking, even if it seems to try for a happily ever after. But that’s a real ending. And it would have been the perfect ending until the last five pages.
That’s when I was left saying, “Wait! It can’t end there, not like that. That’s just not right.”
This was a four star book until the last few pages.
I’ll read it again, though. No doubt.
(above review copied and pasted from my Goodreads account)