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
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- The Tome Traveller
- 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.