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.

Christmas books

I was lucky and got a few books as Christmas gifts.

Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith
A Horseman Riding By by R.F. Delderfield
English Garden Flowers by William Robinson (a lovely old gardening book)
The Oaken Heart by Margery Allingham
Murder in the Snow by Gladys Mitchell

I also got Pawn in Frankincese by Dorothy Dunnett – but that one didn’t make it into my photo.

Books for Christmas 2017

I intend to read The Oaken Heart soon, it’s the story of Margery Allingham’s village in wartime Britain.

At the moment I’m reading Long Summer Day, the first book in the Delderfield trilogy.
I’ve already finished reading Portrait of a Murderer but haven’t written about it yet.
The old gardening book will be one for dipping into from time to time I think.

This year I really want to concentrate on reading my own books, but no doubt that desperately alluring site – Fife libraries catalogue will lure me into temptation at some point!

The Avenue Goes to War by R.F. Delderfield

The Avenue Goes to War cover

The Avenue Goes to War by R.F. Delderfield is of course the sequel to The Dreaming Suburb and in this one the war has well and truly started, no more of that ‘phoney war’ as it was called in the beginning, before the heavy bombing started. Everybody in The Avenue is joining up or war dodging in the case of Archie Carver who is only interested in making as much money as possible. Often it’s the most unexpected people who are most determined to ‘do their bit’.

Delderfield was great at creating interesting characters and in this book he wrote about what was the reality of war for many, with the civilians often ending up taking the brunt of the German attacks.

He shows how society changed completely, sometimes the changes were for the better though, with The Avenue becoming much more socially welcoming for people, friendships being forged by men who had lived next-door to each other for 20 years but had never exchanged more than a ‘hello’ before. It’s not all about The Avenue however, with a few of the former inhabitants ending up in Germany the action moves there occasionally.

I was really sorry when this book came to an end, but the author tied up all the loose ends very satisfactorily and although the writing isn’t poetic, the sentiments are, or philosophical if you prefer.

My copy of this one is a 1958 first edition and it has a nice wee plan of the neighbourhood at the beginning of the book, something which seems to be missing from the modern paperbacks.

Now I intend to start reading A Horseman Riding By (Long Summer Day and Post of Honor in the US) but I don’t have those books yet. I can’t make up my mind whether to buy the modern paperbacks, or just put them on my Kindle, which is a lot cheaper and quicker. But I prefer actual books – although I’m no great fan of modern paperbacks. Decisions, decisions.

Have any of you read his Swann saga?

The Dreaming Suburb by R.F. Delderfield

The Dreaming Suburb cover

The Dreaming Suburb by R.F. Delderfield was first published in 1958 and it’s the first in Delderfield’s ‘Avenue’ books of which there are two.

The book’s first chapter takes place in Spring 1947, but in the next one we’re back in 1919, men are coming back form the trenches and discovering that all the promises they were given by the government meant nothing. Britain isn’t a place fit for heroes, it’s a place of unemployment and poverty for most ordinary people.

The story involves the inhabitants of Manor Park Avenue, it shelters a disparate collection of characters, one of the main ones being Jim Carver who came back from the war to discover that his wife had just died giving birth to her second set of twins. Jim throws himself into trade unionism and is involved in the General Strike.

The Dreaming Suburb leads us up to the beginning of World War 2 just 20 years after the end of the war to end all wars. Jim had been a pacifist after his experiences in the trenches, but he quickly changes his feelings when Hitler begins to rampage across Europe.

The author is a straightforward storyteller, there’s nothing fancy or poetic about his writing, but his characters are so well written, he was obviously a great observer of people. There are several families involved, all very different, and the children usually turn out to be very different from their parents. The strict Methodists have unknowingly brought up manipulative and dishonest children, with Elaine being the opposite of her frigid mother and determined to use her sexual appeal to get everything she wants in life. It was a real page-turner for me and I went straight on to the sequel The Avenue Goes to War. These books would make a great TV series. (Jack’s just told me they have been made for TV, back in 1978 as People Like Us.)

The setting of the suburb is twelve miles from London Stone, (something which I must admit I had never even heard of before) a place that would nowadays be very definitely seen as London itself, so far and wide has London crept.