Thursday, 14 November 2013

Review: Dance the Moon Down by R.L. Bartram

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 Whittaker, 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 sustains her through the dark days of hardship and privation as her life becomes a battle of faith against adversity.

Paperback, 300 pages
Published November 4th 2011 by Authors Online 

Kristine's Thoughts:

* I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.*

I am a huge fan of historical fiction and stories relating to war so I was happy to read and review this book for the author. My only concern before beginning this book was that it would be just the same as the numerous other books I have read that take place during that time. I didn't need to worry as I found myself captivated from the beginning.

Dance the Moon Down takes a look at a different side of WW1, centering on the women that are left behind when the men go off to war. It was a bit of a refreshing change that showed quite flawlessly the impact that the war had on everyone. It wasn't just about the men that so bravely risked their lives and fought to protect their country but also the women that were equally brave in fighting for their survival at home in such a terrifying time.

This story centers around Victoria and follows her life from a teenage girl through to the end of the war. It begins with her attending University, a privilege that most woman did not have. The book touches on the roles and behaviours towards woman at that time and the inequality they endured. It is during this time that she meets Beryl and is introduced to the suffragette movement. Although sympathetic she still dreamt of falling in love and getting married.

When Victoria meets Gerald while at University it is love at first sight and their story begins. They marry in January, 1914 and spend only a short time together before war is declared and Gerald volunteers to serve and protect his country. They promise to write and meet back at their small cottage in the English countryside when the war ends. Both young and naive believe that the war will end by Christmas and that they will be back to normal in no time.

At first, Victoria receives letters from Gerald regularly but then they suddenly stop and the story of her struggle for survival begins. In her heart she fully believes that he is still alive and makes it her mission to find out where he is and what happened to him. She finds herself in trouble because of her loose ties to the suffragette movement and her friendship with Beryl and because of that she is warned to return to her quiet life in the countryside to avoid any further trouble.

As the war presses on, Victoria realises that she needs to find work because there is no money left. It doesn't take her long to figure out that a young woman, although highly educated, has few options and ends up at an unlikely place doing the work normally reserved for a man.

I will leave it here as I don't want to re-tell the entire story and ruin anything for future readers but this is where the story gets really good in my opinion.Victoria deals with survival, physical labour and pain, censorship, an unrelenting belief that her husband is alive along with unlikely friendships, comradery and a lifestyle she is unaccustomed to.

The writing in this book is beautiful and so descriptive that you feel like you are there. Bartram does an amazing job at describing the women's perspectives, feelings and struggles. The book is filled with wonderful, unique and interesting characters that I adored. This was such an enjoyable read for me and a very easy 5 stars. I highly recommend Dance the Moon Down for fans of historical fiction.


R.L. Bartram

Having first put pen to paper at the age of 17, he has now been writing for a number of years and many of his short stories have appeared in various national periodicals and magazines. His two main passions in life are writing and the history of the early twentieth century, which made Dance the Moon Down a logical choice for his first full length work of fiction. He is single and lives and works in Hertfordshire.

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