Saturday 1 June 2019

#BlogTour The Blue Bench by Paul Marriner

Today it's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Blue Bench by Paul Marriner. It's a powerful thought-provoking book, historical fiction with an element of literary fiction.

About the Author
Paul grew up in a west London suburb and now lives in Berkshire with his wife and two children. He is passionate about music, sport and, most of all, writing, on which he now concentrates full-time. Paul has written four novels and his primary literary ambition is that you enjoy reading them while he is hard at work on the next one (but still finding time to play drums with Redlands and Rags 2 Riches).

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About the book
A masterfully written story of yearning and love in 1920 as a nation grieves - one soul, one person at a time. The body of the Unknown Warrior is coming home, can Britain find peace?

Margate 1920. The Great War is over but Britain mourns and its spirit is not yet mended.

Edward and William have returned from the front as changed men. Together they have survived grotesque horrors and remain haunted by memories of comrades who did not come home. The summer season in Margate is a chance for them to rebuild their lives and reconcile the past.

Evelyn and Catherine are young women ready to live life to the full. Their independence has been hard won and, with little knowledge of the cost of their freedom, they are ready to face new challenges side by side.

Can they define their own future and open their hearts to the prospect of finding love? Will the summer of 1920 be a turning point for these new friends? As the body of the Unknown Warrior is returned, can the nation find a way forward?

Instead of bringing the war to the reader, Marriner brings the aftermath of the war to us. In a way it makes the entirety of the event even more tragic. It's one thing following a character through the horror of war, it's quite another to realise the horror never leaves, despite the war being over.

In essence that is the feeling that permeates throughout the story. The emotional ball that is buried deeply within the survivors and in those left behind to mourn.

There is a poignant scene in the book between Edward and Alastair. When Edward asks Alastair whether he spends each day looking out to sea in the hopes that he will see, experience or feel a connection to Curtis. The scene cuts like a knife into the indescribable grief loved ones were and are left with.

The Unknown Warrior plays an important role in this book, as he does in history. His role is symbolic, his role is a tribute and in memoriam, and most importantly he is every soldier who never returned. He is both death and life. The symbol of loss and simultaneously one of courage.

I think it's important to note that it wasn't common practice to ship the dead back home. Logistically it would have been difficult, however the effect on the moral of those men going to war would have been detrimental to the war effort. Imagine being a young man shipping out with a certain naive and innocent outlook on what to expect and having to encounter the corpses of the men who went before them.The Unknown Warrior represents those who never came home. He is everyone's son, husband, brother and father.

I think many people are unaware of the work and dedication that went into ensuring as many soldiers as possible have a resting place that marks the fact they died for their country. A place loved ones and future generations can visit whilst pondering the sacrifice and tragedy of the Great War.

A certain number of men who served relentlessly and during the bloodiest of battles were charged with digging up and moving the corpses of their brothers in arms. Often only regimental badges or small items were found to identify the remains. These men spent another two to three years overseas burying and re-burying the dead and creating the cemeteries and marking the places of memorial we have today.

I digress.

I have to say for me the book was less about love, relationships and building a life beyond war. For me it was a walk with ghosts and memories. An homage to the men they fought with and knew. The men who didn't return and those who did. How the country deals with the repercussions, the loss and the vivid reminders of war. How the maimed, disfigured and damaged veterans have to try and reinsert themselves into a society they no longer belong in per se, because they are forced to exist on the perimeter of it.

It's a powerful thought-provoking book, historical fiction with an element of literary fiction. I could talk about it for ages, perhaps you should read it instead.

Buy The Blue Bench at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Bluescale Publishing; pub date 12 Jun. 2018. Buy at Amazon com.

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