Dance The Moon Down: R.L. Bartram

dance moon down

Firstly, I was so incredibly happy when I was sent this book, as historical fiction is my favourite genre of book! Historical fiction has always made me incredibly happy. I think it is its ability to transport you to a completely different time zone with different cultures, different rules and different factors. If an author can take you and completely change the world you once were in, then you cannot help but acknowledge the skills and penmanship of said author. Once again I am pushing through the incredibly long list of books that need reviewing, so if you are waiting for a review it is on the way I promise. Anyway, onto the review! ENJOY!

In 1910, no one believed there would ever be a war with Germany. Safe in her affluent middle-class life, the rumours held no significance for Victoria either. It was her father’s decision to enrol her at university that began to change all that. There she befriends the rebellious and outspoken Beryl Whittaker, an emergent suffragette, but it is her love for Gerald Avery, a talented young poet from a neighbouring university that sets the seal on her future. After a clandestine romance, they marry in January 1914, but with the outbreak of the First World War, Gerald volunteers but within months has gone missing in France. Convinced that he is still alive, Victoria’s initial attempts to discover what has become of him, implicate her in a murderous assault on Lord Kitchener resulting in her being interrogated as a spy, and later tempted to adultery. Now virtually destitute, Victoria is reduced to finding work as a common labourer on a run down farm, where she discovers a world of unimaginable ignorance and poverty. It is only her conviction that Gerald will some day return that sustains her through the dark days of hardship and privation as her life becomes a battle of faith against adversity. The story is set during the First World War, the war that was supposed to end all wars. In 1910, Victoria’s parents debate whether to let her go to University. Her Father, a scholar is keen for her to go, her Mother, more conservative believes that she does not need to further her education. Her Father wins and Victoria goes off to study. It is whilst she is at University that she meets Gerald and falls in love.

The first element that needs to be acknowledged here is the sheer attention to detail that has been shown here in this book. The author has not only an extensive knowledge of the time period, but ultimately has a deep, deep passion for the era. But not only that of the soldiers but of the civilians left behind to keep up the workings of every day life in Britain. See, the story takes a different line of importance; although the book looks at the life of the soldier, it focuses on the lives of the ones left behind; especially the loved ones of the soldiers. Dance of the Moon is not only a book about Victoria, but also about the struggle closer to home during WW1. It is the story of those that had to pull together, after being thrust into a life they never thought possible. I thought the character profiles were incredibly well built up; Victoria at first is naïve and waif like. She lacks conviction and strength, but she grows in stature as she is pushed into a new life that pushes her to the very limit. Additionally the characters that she meets working at the farm are brilliantly written and add contrast to Victoria’s character and by including them it allows for additional storylines to be interweaved. These three lovely ladies are strong, funny, lovable and overall exciting and I loved reading about their lives in this book. Working the land and making new friends Victoria begins to find herself as a real person, an individual, rather than a wife of another. I loved how the author played on the fact that although Victoria has a further education, it is instead the work that she takes part in at the farm that makes her grow up most as a person. I also loved the additional suffragette movement storyline, which revolves mainly around the gutsy Beryl. A lady of sheer determination and spirit she is beautifully written.

The only slight issue I found with the book is that at times it appears to take a non-fiction stance; although this is not an entirely negative thing it made the writing seem a little dry at times. However, the plotline is steady and fluid. The narrative seeps a mix of narrative, emotion, and information in a way that you would think wouldn’t work and yet here it works beautifully (although if you are not a fan of lots of information, you may find it a little dry as I did) The plot line dips in and out, working to expose the feelings of the characters and the difficulty Victoria faces throughout, should she move on? Should she wait for Gerald? The storyline pulls on the readers emotions and makes us think how we would have reacted if we were put in the same position. This is a gracefully written book with brilliant research a real understanding of British life in the war, and a great understanding of how to transport the reader to a completely new time zone; a brilliant read!

3 Comments

  1. June 22, 2014 / 9:08 pm

    I loved, loved this book. I read it a few months ago and couldn’t stop reading it. I just loved the emotion behind it and the I-am-woman-hear-me-roar feeling to it. I can’t wait to read more of Bartrams work.

  2. June 23, 2014 / 10:22 am

    This is an excellent review, Lizzy. This blog post convinced me to add Dance the Moon Down to my TBR list.

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