Book Review by Lucy Meekley.
The Moon Field by Judith Allnatt. The Borough Press. £7.99
"Today, when George Farrell went on the last leg of his rounds, he would present Violet with the painting over which he had laboured. 'As a token of my esteem,' he would say, for, even to himself, he dared not use the word love."
George is a postman, delivering letters in Helvellyn Street, and John Street in Keswick and to the Manor House which lies beyond the town. He is eighteen years old, a dreamer, a fisherman and a painter. The First World War has already started but life continues as before in the town post-office and in the Market Square in front of the Moot Hall.
He'd first met Violet Walter when she was taking a photograph of the sparkling waters. She was older by three years, wealthy, more sophisticated. He stuttered as he was about to say postman, but she, sympathetically, finished the word: " 'Painter', she said and smiled. "
However, he is left heartbroken when he realises the letters he has been delivering and she has been receiving are from another man: "What a fool, he thought, to have imagined those letters were exchanges between school friends: gossip and girlish confidences. Of course - they we're love letters; of course they were."
There is also Kitty, his childhood best friend: "George thought about...how he and Kitty had come to be friends: the fat girl and the dopey boy teaming up to find safety in numbers and sticking together because no one else wanted them." "Apart from matters to do with Violet, there had been barely a decision in his life he hadn't talked over with Kitty first."
When he enlists in the army to escape his heartbreak, Kitty is left feeling hurt and confused. George and his friends parade through the streets of Carlisle and into the castle, "a huge medieval pile. Built of red sandstone, everything about it was square...The thickness of the walls was such that it seemed to have been hewn from solid rock . . . George thought about the soldiers who had passed through these barracks over centuries, all the feet that had drilled in this enormous, open square and marched out to do battle."
George has started on a painful and life changing journey.
When he returns home, somewhat disillusioned by the heavy reality of battle, he struggles to come to terms with his experiences. Rejected by his community and distanced from his loved ones, he wonders if any woman could love the man he has become.
The lives of George, Kitty and Violet entwine in unexpected and moving ways, leaving them all bearing the scars of war.
Judith Allnatt's “The Moon Field” is a tale of love and tragedy. George is catapulted from his simple, familiar life into the adult world of loss, decision and responsibility. He soon realises that the problems of the past are not so easily buried, but must be faced and resolved.
As a Cumbrian there is a certain novelty to recognising the locations in which a great deal of the action takes place. George and Kitty take several walks around the Lake District when he returns from war: "They reached Friar's Crag, a rocky point protruding into the lake like the prow of a ship to give a panoramic view of the expanse of water and it's thickly wooded islands."
Tying in with the centenary of World War I, “The Moon Field” paints an interesting picture of life beyond the front. It reminds us that the devastation of war was not just in the distant battles, but here in our very own region.