The Green Gauntlet by R.F. Delderfield

The Green Gauntlet cover

The Green Gauntlet by R.F. Delderfield is the last book in The Horseman Riding By trilogy and was published in 1968.

When this book begins World War 2 is still ongoing and although there have been sorrows it hasn’t been nearly as bad for the inhabitants of the Shallowfield valley as World War 1. Many are making a mint from the black market in food and the few valley inhabitants who went off to the war aren’t doing nearly as badly as the previous generation did in the trenches. However stray bombs have ended up landing in some of Paul Craddock’s fields, the civilians are having a worse time than the combatants are.

Paul is now in his 60s but he has always looked after himself and he and his wife Claire are young at heart, in fact Claire at the age of 50 had unexpectedly presented him with her sixth and last child, a son. I found that a bit unlikely as I’ve read that 48 is about the oldest that you can give birth to a healthy child. Another character manages to give birth at the age of 52. If any of you know of any natural births in such old mothers I’d be interested to hear about them.

Anyway back to the book. It’s a great read but with the end of the war comes change and not for the better as Paul discovers too late that many of his children can’t be trusted with the land that he has poured his life into, and post-war development is spreading ever nearer his property. Shady land deals and dodgy local councillors as well as a need for new housing are changing the whole area.

There’s a bit of a disaster but it’s not all doom and gloom and in the end there’s a lot to be optimistic about. I really loved this trilogy.

Post of Honour by R.F. Delderfield

Post of Honour cover

Whenever I finish reading a book I note it down in a notebook, it makes it nice and easy to keep track of what I’ve read over the years and I can quickly tot up how many I read by male/female authors, how many fiction and non-fiction books. A small pencilled Sc in the margin means I can see almost at a glance how many books by Scottish authors I’ve read that year. I do the same with the non fiction – nf. It would take a lot longer if I only had that information on my computer and had to scroll down all of my book posts.

Anyway, I see from my notebook that I finished reading Long Summer Day by R.F. Delderfield (the first in this trilogy) way back at the beginning of January and I really enjoyed it so I have no idea why it took me so long to get around to reading book two – Post of Honour, I possibly enjoyed this one even more.

At the beginning of the book it’s 1912 and the idyllic country setting of the Shallowford Valley in Dorset is still a rural backwater. Horses are still the mode of transport for the lucky few who have them and Squire Craddock, as the tenants call Paul, is still in love with the area although he’s now married to a different wife as Grace his first love decided that being a Suffragette was more important than being a farmer’s wife and mother. Claire his second wife had ‘set her cap’ at him from the minute she met him and before he married Grace and has triumphed at last.

World War 1 is just about to change everything forever though as so many of the tenants and even Paul himself eventually become involved in the conflict, many of them ending up in the mud and gore of Ypres. As the war comes to an end it transpires that as Paul is still a sleeping partner in the scrap metal company that had been his father’s – he has made a lot of money out of the war. Appalled at the thought of profiting from the deaths of so many people Paul decides to use the money to develop his land and properties to make life better for his tenants.

This makes it sound a dry read but it’s anything but that as there are so many quirky characters and of course their love lives and family relationships are all intertwined. I went straight on from finishing this book to starting the next one – The Green Gauntlet.

Post of Honour ends with the beginning of World War 2 and if you’re interested in the social history of the time then this book will be a great read for you.

Long Summer Day by R.F. Delderfield

Long Summer Day cover

Long Summer Day by R.F. Delderfield was first published in 1966 and it’s the first book in his A Horseman Riding By trilogy. It’s a good read, I’ll probably give it four stars on Goodreads.

It begins in 1901 and ends in 1911. At the beginning Paul has been invalided out of the army, he was in the cavalry and had been fighting in the Boer War, a bullet wound to his knee had ended all that. The end of his army career has come at more or less the same time as the death of his father which means that he has inherited a half share in a very lucrative scrap metal business. The war had made it even more successful than it had been, but Paul isn’t at all interested in the business and is happy to leave the running of it to his ‘uncle’ Franz, his father’s business partner.

Paul knows that he wants to live an outdoor life and despite having no experience of it he’s drawn to farming. When a large estate is advertised for sale he goes to view it and falls in love with the place. The locals make up a great cast of quirky characters and I can see that this series is going to be an enjoyable journey through British social history. I’m presuming that the next two books will be dealing with the two World Wars that changed society so much.

This one was on my new Classics Club list – another one bites the dust.