Vivian, a rather silly and naive young debutante, is rushed in to a loveless marriage because of her scandalous behaviour. But this is 1914, war breaks out, her husband enlists and she is left trying to manage their estate in the Midlands. Alternate chapters follow the story of Howard, a clever young playwright, who travels with his friend, a reporter to France. There, he is deeply affected by the horror and inhumanity he experiences.
The main plot is the love story between these two but much of the novel deals with an exploration of the beliefs of conscientious objectors. Although I found this interesting, most of it is put across in conversations between Howard and Vivian and Howard, in particular, becomes more of a mouthpiece for ideas rather than a character I could believe in. I liked the way the character of Vivian is developed – at the start she is very shallow, understandably with her upbringing, and she quickly grows up and becomes a capable and likeable woman.
There have been many novels set during WW1 recently and this one is certainly interesting and original in many ways. There was something about the style and dialogue though that didn’t quite feel to be of the period. I’m not sure why because the historical aspects seem to be well researched and the the terrible war scenes are portrayed uncompromisingly.
I can see this being a good choice for groups as there is much to discuss ranging from attitudes to conscientious objectors to issues around writing style.
If You Go Away by Adele Parks
9781472205476|Headline Review pbk Nov 2015