That necklace is the key to Adam's future. He resigns his commission and returns to England, where the germ of an enterprising idea is born during a trek on horseback through the country he has been away from for so long. He wants to create a delivery company that will haul goods in the areas that the railway doesn't reach. On the same trip he encounters a young woman, Henrietta, who has run away from her father and his plans to marry her off for his own personal gain.
Henrietta turns out to be unlike the women that Adam has previously known. She is bright and has an unusual way of looking at the world. She even dreams up the logo for his yet-to-be company. They are soon married and then Adam is off to make his commercial dreams a reality. He seems to have either an extraordinarily clear eye for business or the devil's own luck, because he succeeds and founds an empire in the booming world of Victorian England.
This book is a grand family saga, the first in a trilogy that is followed by Theirs Was the Kingdomand Give Us This Day. I thought it was fantastic: a big, meaty, complex book that delves into the lives of the main characters and numerous side characters, as well. It vividly paints the world of Victorian England, the effects of the industrial revolution and arrival of the railway. It is intricate and interesting, with enough technical detail to please male readers and enough romance to keep women happy. A fine balance.
For some reason, though I have long known about R.F. Delderfield books, I have never read one before. It is always such a pleasure to discover a new (to me) historical fiction author, especially one who wrote close to twenty books....a whole list of promising reads for me to discover. If you love historical fiction, R.F. Delderfield is an author you won't want to miss!
I came across an old 1971 Pocket paperback copy of God is an Englishman and I thought the "About the Author" section was so interesting, I wanted to share it with you (the author died in 1972):
R.F. Delderfield was born in London but has lived much of his life in Devon, where he started writing as a reporter on his father's newspaper, the Exmouth Chronicle. During World War II and immediately thereafter he achieved quite a success as a West End playwright (one of his plays ran five and a half years). Then, at the age of forty, he stopped to take stock of his life. "What I really wanted was to be a novelist," he told one interviewer, "to project the English way of life in the tradition of Hardy and Galsworthy." Out of that resolve have come his great family sagas- The Avenue, A Horseman Riding By and its sequel, The Green Gauntlet, and now his latest and most ambitious saga which begins with God Is An Englishman.
In preparing himself to write one of his vast family chronicles, Mr. Delderfield draws a detailed map of the territory, county or city that he will cover, placing the houses where his characters will live and adding the place names and details that will build up into a rich and convincing background. Then he steps back and lets inspiration take over. He writes regularly in the morning, averaging about 4,000 words a day, then takes the afternoons off to go strolling over the moors.