The story of this book was better than the book itself – There was a Time by Frank White.

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Writing, Writing Thoughts

A manuscript, wrapped in string, appeared at the Hodder and Stoughton offices. Attached was a note: I used to be a Hodder author. I am now one of the few people left who were alive at the time of the Second World War, one of the only people who can capture the feeling of those times. I have written it into a book, and this is it. (My paraphrase).

So far, so exciting. But sadly, this is the story OF the book, not in the book. Author Frank White, in his own words now, says: “What I aimed to do was to capture the feeling of those times and remind people of what the country went through.” If that is so, my main takeaway from this book is that during these times everyone committed adultery.

The book is set in a village and skips between different storylines of different characters. I found it quite hard to keep track of who was who and who was having an affair with whom, but I suppose it gave us some scope. To not really see beyond the geographical area of the village made it feel a little claustrophobic, but I can imagine that that is what it felt like at the time, so that, at least, is telling.

Character wise, it is a little while since I read the book, but I can still remember hints of the different people around. There was a wide range of classes and modes of life which was interesting, but as I said I did get confused between some of them which did make it difficult.

And, the focus. I mean, I’m sure that in those troubled and unsettled times there was a higher than average number of affairs; unwanted pregnancies and people eloping etc. But this whole book felt like a case study on that. Obviously, Frank White was there at the time (as a 13-year-old schoolboy…) and I wasn’t, but I had hoped for more of an insight into life than ‘everyone was in bed with everyone else.’

Therefore, though the story of this book is fantastic, the novel itself detached from that, is not something I would recommend.

Thanks nevertheless to Hodder and Stoughton for the review copy. Probably it’s still worth having printed for history’s sake. 

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