Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Review: To Serve Them All My Days by R.F. Delderfield

After three years in the bloody trenches of World War I France, David Powlett-Jones is sent to an English hospital to recover from his injuries. He was born and raised in a Welsh mining town, where his father and two brothers were killed in a mining accident when he was a boy. He was accustomed to loss but nothing could have prepared him for the devastation he witnessed in the war. The injuries heal but the shell-shock requires a more creative treatment.

David's doctor has a remedy. He sends him on a job interview for a position teaching history at Bamfylde School, a boys' school in isolated Exmoor. At Bamfylde, David finds something special: a father figure, a surrogate family and a place to begin to forget the horrors of his war experiences.

And he does. The doctor has somehow hit on David's calling. He is young for a teacher, at only twenty one, but he has a gift for it and a passion for teaching history. He earns his degree along the way and becomes part of the fabric of the Bamfylde world, indeed one of the most important pieces of it. In a saga that stretches over more than twenty years, David's life has the same tragedies and triumphs as anyone else, but his are enriched by the students and the school that seem to cushion the bad times and magnify the joys of his life.

This is a rich and complex story. Though I found parts of it a little slow, there can be few books that describe so clearly the point of view of a dedicated teacher as they watch successive generations come and go. And I'm glad that I read through until the end, because the author brings the story full circle in a charming way.

It is also a wonderful historical novel of England between the wars, the author does an excellent job relaying the shock and dismay of ordinary people watching yet another deadly conflict building. I enjoyed this novel and I think anyone interested in English history, teaching or historical fiction would enjoy it, too.

To Serve Them All My Days is published by Sourcebooks. ISBN 978-1-4022-1824-8

6 comments:

bermudaonion said...

Oh, a story about triumph after tragedy sounds really good!

Zibilee said...

Great review! I not only like the sound of the synopsis of this book, but the title and cover as well. I am glad that you stuck with it and are able to recommend it. The story is unfamiliar to me, and one that I think I'd like to read. Thanks!

Amy said...

I never heard of this book before but I love the storyline - a young injured soldier who finds his calling because of the doctor who cared for him. I love stories about teachers too, I think they are the unsung heros of our world and, as such, deserve any recognition they get.

Thank you for a wonderful review.

susan.byerly said...

Your review has made me want to read this book.
susan.byerly@comcast.net

lilly said...

I think I liked how this story was brought to a full circle at the end the most. I don't think I have one bad thing to say about this book.

Anna said...

This sounds like a book I'd enjoy. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

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About Me

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.