A charming time capsule set in rural Wales
Story blurb: The Second World War. It’s not all fighting and glory; there are battles on the Home Front, too, and some are not exactly heroic. That’s what injured naval officer Harry discovers when he befriends conscientious objector Jim – a friendship frowned upon in their small Welsh valley even before they begin to fall in love. But they both have secrets to conceal, and it takes a bizarre sequence of events before the full truth can be uncovered.
A novel about healing, compromise, making the best of it and just plain managing to survive.
About the author: Imaginist and purveyor of tall tales Adam Fitzroy is a UK resident who has been successfully spinning male-male romances either part-time or full-time since the 1980s, and has a particular interest in examining the conflicting demands of love and duty.
Review by Gerry Burnie
Coming so close after Remembrance Day, I’ll admit that another wartime story may not be ideal timing, but Make Do and Mend by Adam Fitzroy [Manifold Press, May 4, 2013] is more of a gentle love story than a war tale per se. In fact, given that it deals (in part) with the topic of a conscientious objection, one could say it is ‘anti-war’ in nature.
As the story opens, the Second World War is already underway, and Navy Commander Harry Lyons has been sent home on medical leave. Home is a family farm in rural Wales, where enigmatic farmhand, Jim Byrnawell, a conscientious objector, is making himself handy. This is the simple beginning to a story that, happily, stays simple, even though there is much happening at the same time.
Through Harry and Jim, we are invited behind the war scene to a quiet corner of Wales where the inhabitants are ‘making do’. Rationing and sacrifice are the accepted norms, and yet it is this communal sacrifice that brings people together; our two protagonists included.
To add a bit of angst to the mix, the author has introduced a hypothetical debate around the topic of conscientious objection; as discussed from the point of view of various characters. It is a somewhat unique perspective—certainly one I have not encountered before—and Fitzroy has done a fine job of keeping the discussion balanced.
The other elements of the story have a balance to them, as well. Harry and Jim’s relationship comes together with a naturalness that sits well with the reader, and the physical aspects are in keeping with the novel’s understated style.
Mention should also be made of the charming setting, and of the quaintness of the Welsh villagers. It reads with all the credibility of opening a time capsule. Five bees.
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