This is a strange book; it takes a really interesting historical event – a fatal crush at an Underground bomb shelter during World War II – and then takes an oddly detached viewpoint on it.
The author turns the event into a mystery and by doing so is unable to concentrate on the most interesting part of the story – the experience and emotions of the people caught up in the crush. The actual description of the crush only lasts a few pages and the rest of the novel is taken up by the narrative of the people writing the report on the accident and making a documentary about it set 3 years after the event. It would have been more interesting and enjoyable if it had been a blow by blow description of the incident from the viewpoint of the people involved rather than a sterile reflection on the events.
The fictionalisation of events to create a mystery surrounding why the crush started seems to undermine the reportage elements of the story, leaving it confused and lacking in a clear perspective.
It was a shame; this storyline handled in a different way has the potential to be riveting and very moving.
I really enjoyed this novel. It is beautiful and written in a simple A to B, past tense, third person narrative. It’s such a relief to read something written in a traditional style which allows the plot and characters come to the fore.
This novel features some fascinating topics including suffragettes, cricket, World War I. It is engaging and opens a window on life in the 1910’s. The main characters, star-crossed lovers Will and Connie, are fully rounded, flawed but likeable people; it was a joy to spend time in their company.
It was lovely to read a book so unashamedly English, I particularly enjoyed reading the scenes at the cricket and I thought that the secondary storyline of retired sportsmen and suicide was very moving and is as relevant now as it was in the early twentieth century.
I would highly recommend this novel.