I was late to the game with this one, only managing to get my hands on a copy a few weeks ago. I am so glad I got to read it, this side of the new year, so I can add to my best reads of 2014!
1913 and War hovers, as a very real possibility, in the air of London. Men are signing up. women are demanding rights and mothers all over the land fear for their young sons. The lucky ones are hidden behind the safety of their status, education or rank. An unexpected bequest means that Eva Downey gets to escape the wrath of her stepmother and stepsister, gaining entry into an exclusive boarding school. A major change in the young girls life, she embraces the world of learning, structure, poetry and self-improvement. She is embraced by two very different characters at the school and life takes a very different turn in her sheltered world.
1914 and Eva has a heart-wrenching decision to make. An evil twist of fate has her held hostage to this decision and the pain remains long after the deed is done. Love is pain, loss is pain and regret is pain. But how can one forget what caused the pain? How can one move on?
Written in delicate prose, in the style of the period, the first thing that appealed to me when turning the opening pages, was the fluidity of the words. They slipped across the page, like a satin scarf slipping off the back of a chair. Gliding, without any apparent effort, taking the reader along their journey. This elegance didn't fade once throughout the novel. Each chapter, each character and each sub-story, all had this unique feel. I felt like I was discovering some forgotten antiques at an old house auction, that could now be appreciated by a lover of stories.
Susan Lanigan began this book long before this years WWI centenary, but the timing of its release was impeccable. The White Feathers of the title, are all too well known for their message of cowardice, and may my children never know the impact of such a statement in their lifetime. Eva is a wonderfully drawn protagonist, one who has been dealt the bad hand but who uses this to make her a stronger person. Her father is the biggest coward in the whole tale, not the men avoiding war. A spineless, selfish man, who has hurt the ones who are closest to him, without a second thought.
Sybil, Christopher and Lucia are the Holy Trinity of Eva's new world. Unaware of how their roles will affect her, she stumbles across their company, like a moth to a flame. Their fates are aligned, both in the UK and on the fields of France and Belgium. Friendship can be a bond, hard to break and harder to forget. Even when war tears people apart, life has a way of bringing people together. Heroes, cowards, life, death, duty and honor. Fear of humiliation, nervous conditions, unplanned pregnancies, and pre-arranged marriages. This book has a bit of everything. The most powerful thing it does possess; soul. Good, old-fashioned, soul. Beautifully crafted, immaculately researched and lovingly produced. Place this novel on your best piece of furniture, as it deserves to be displayed prominently, and admired regularly.