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Monday, 28 May 2012

Armistice by Nick Stafford

This book was passed onto me by a friend and I must admit that I started it mostly out of a sense of obligation - haven't we all been there? Luckily in this case it turned out to be a well-placed recommendation. Armistice is set at the end of World War 1 and concerns Philomena, a young woman who is making the journey South to London to meet the soldiers who fought side by side with her fiancé before he fell in battle in France. On arrival, it is alleged that Dan's death in fact occurred after the Armistice, and under suspicious circumstances. We follow her journey to try and find the truth.




 

The main thing that I initially found off-putting about this novel was the wartime setting. I have to admit that historical fiction is just not my genre, and this particularly applies to wartime stories. The reason that this wasn't a problem when reading Armistice is that it isn't really about the war at all. You could take these characters and this scenario and stick them in the present day, even 100 years from now and it would still be relevant and engaging. One person alleges that something is true, a second person denies it, and a third party is stuck in the middle trying to fathom out what's what. Furthermore, I didn't get a good feel for life in that particular period when reading this book. The London that is portrayed actually feels fairly modern, other than Philomena's occasional reluctance to go somewhere unaccompanied as a single woman. I was surprised to read about sordid sex! and drugs! (not so much the rock and roll).

Nick Stafford raises some interesting questions about class, equality and justice which are still relevant today. On the battlefield men would fraternise with other soldiers from all walks of life and put differences in social status aside. Once war was over it must have been really difficult for everybody to go back to their normal roles, and this is something that is illustrated really well in Armistice. It also made me muse over the impact that status and power has on the justice system.

The ending was pleasantly unexpected and I felt, pitched just right. I enjoyed this and would recommend it to historical fiction fans as well as those who don't enjoy the genre.

2 comments:

  1. I think we're always surprised when we find out that our generation didn't invent sex. The divorce rate in the UK in WW1 rocketed; young female munitions workers with money in their pockets, and the time and freedom to spent it, saw need no need to emulate the habits of their Victorian parents. In many ways, this is the beginning of the modern age, and not the 1920s.

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  2. It's true, although I think it was the extent to which drug use seemed to pervade society that surprised me the most in this book. I think this is a problem I have encountered often with historical fiction - I have come across too many examples of the genre that gloss over the less savoury habits of the time and portray the era in a really twee, chaste manner. Either that or in a cheesy 'bodice ripper' style.

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