I’ve never read as much WW2 fiction in my life as I have since joining my local library reading group. Historical fiction as a genre has never struck a chord with me (I’m not sure whether that’s because of or despite my History MA!). Needless to say, The Storms of War isn’t the type of book I’d have picked up were it not for my book club.
Up to a point, there’s a lot that feels familiar here, be it thematically or right down to the description of misery in the trenches. Until the halfway point, I struggled to shake the feeling that I’d read it all before. Still, this book has an original premise, following the declining fortunes of the part-German deWitt family as they struggle to find their place in WW2 England.
The front cover blurb likens the novel to Downton Abbey, so I was never expecting anything overly hard-hitting (something I suspect my fellow book-clubbers were, as the general consensus was that the novel had squandered the potential of its premise.) Despite this, I was really quite moved by the portion of the book which follows the family’s youngest son Michael into the trenches, while he deals with his social isolation and sexuality.
The novel’s highlight for me was when it moved into territory that felt less well-trodden, charting youngest daughter Celia’s time driving ambulances in France. I could certainly have read a whole novel centered around this time, and was disappointed when a storyline which could have seen Celia move into undercover intelligence never came to fruition.
If you’re prepared to go into The Storms of War expecting a Downton-esque family saga rather than a hard-hitting examination of the treatment of part-German citizens in WW2, this book may be for you. I found it a fairly easy read/listen (ably narrated by Katie Scarfe), and finished it looking forward to the next installment.
[Read from 14-20 May 2016]