I first read Field Service by Robert Edric a year ago as part of my research into the aftermath of the #GreatWar. I reread it this week as a writer. This is the first book by Edric I have read. It won’t be the last; I feel the stirrings of a literary crush. The story spans 3-4 weeks in the summer of 1920. Things happen – but not a lot. And what does happen, happens very slowly and thoughtfully. And rather beautifully. A cemetery is being prepared for the dead scattered throughout the old battlefields of northern France. The soldiers doing the work are truculent and unwilling; they just want to go home. A lieutenant in charge of gathering remains is an emotional wreck; his colonel is not very nice. Bodies arrive and are buried: the fiancé of a young woman who visits, a soldier shot for desertion, some prisoners who may have been unlawfully killed. The church bell tolls and the insects drone and the sun sets over the parched, ruined countryside (definitely a theme; I’m starting to long for winters books). A woman appears; she is organising the reburial of a group of nurses. She and the upright, uptight officer hero talk a lot sitting by the canal. They hold hands on the very last page. Three gifts for the writer-reader: (1) I would have had the nurse and the soldier in bed by page 100. Therein lies a lesson. The hand-holding was nearly as exciting when it happened. (2) Unusually for a novice writer, I have been told I “show” too much at the detriment of “telling” a story. This book is a masterclass in getting the balance just right. (3) There’s quite a lot of exposition herein (I think that’s the right word); stuff about the Imperial War Graves Commission, the nature of remembrance, identification of remains – but somehow it works, woven into thoughts, appearing in conversation, and just, er, explained. #amreading #amwriting #writinginspiration #historicalfiction
Hannah Hulme Hunter
Writer of literary historical fiction set in the Great War (First World War). Revising my first book, writing the next, seeking representation. Mountaineer, gardener, traveller, off-road runner. Africa, modern history, coffee, roses, and unrealistic romance. NHS midwife in a former life.