This story sits between the two World Wars. It focuses on the family of the schoolmaster in a small village in north Kent. The trigger is the contrasting reactions to the declaration of war in 1914 by the schoolmaster’s son, Hubert Simmonds, and his friend, Geoffrey Cordingley. Geoffrey lives in the manor house in the village but he befriended and fell in love with Hubert at Cambridge. Whilst Simmonds joins up in a spirit of self-sacrifice, Cordingley goes to the Front as part of the Friends’ Ambulance Unit.
Hubert’s sister Delia and her school-friend, Anstace Catchpool, who is from a Quaker family, remain in Kent. A web of attachment stretches between the four characters. Geoffrey has encouraged Delia’s affection for him as a surrogate for her brother. Anstace and Hubert are in love but he is driven by an ideal of self-sacrifice. Anstace has supported Geoffrey in his pacifism.
Events take their course and a baby is born. In the aftermath of the war, those who are left realign themselves but old bonds are stretched to breaking point. Love has to be dug out of the detritus. But will it be strong enough to counter the selfish predations of others? If there is any hope of redemption, who offers it? And what of the child?
The story unfolds against the chatter of village-voices whose talk provides a local backcloth for events. Through everything are woven ideas relating to manhood and the way that this is tested by pacifism and gentleness. Notions of love, sexuality and salvation are explored and reinterpreted.
By David Matthews
Publisher: John Hunt http://www.o-books.com/john-hunt-company.html
Published 8th December 2017