Light and Darkness. Wendy Lawrance. GWL Publishing. June 2013. 380 pp. ISBN#: 9781905378470.
Harry is a lawyer but early on in this story decides to forsake his legal career and become a full-time painter/artist. This is made clear in the awful days of grief after he loses his beloved wife, Bella. Devastated with sorrow, he finds he cannot draw his love and finds his only comfort in their daughter, Rose. Because he has inherited a large amount of money, he is able to leave city life and reside in his beloved seaside home. His family worry about him as time passes and Harry’s grief seems as severe as the day he lost Bella and his meetings with them for holidays are fraught with a constant nervous tension. Some distraction occurs with the looming possibility of WWI and Harry realizes he needs a change of scenery and purpose, although his only hesitation lies in the face he would have to leave Rose with his family. However, war breaks out and Harry enlists. Who knows how the future will evolve? All Harry knows is he’s not afraid to do his patriotic duty and fight for England.
Before Harry and his peers go off to the actual war, they are forced to spend what seems an interminable time training and being moved from camp to camp. During that time he makes a good friend with Edward, a young man anxious to be off to war, if only to avert his thoughts from his beloved fiancé, whose family doesn’t see him as a favorable future husband. Harry, on the other hand, finds the separations from Rose awful with each brief leave he gets before the final one week leave when he knows this will be his last time with Rose for a very long time.
War indeed is hell and the reader learns of the brutal battles, wounds, and death constantly barraging British troops from German soldiers and weapons. Harry turns out to be a well-balanced, responsible and yet compassionate officer who unfortunately seems powerless to divert the pompous and dangerous orders of a commanding officer who drinks to hide his fear.
At one particular point, Harry and his fellow soldiers are forced to rest at a French farm where a woman Elise is a gracious host even though supplies and meals are sparse. Over time Harry quickly falls in love with Elise but their relationship is riddled with insecurity because of the future.
The novel’s end is so deeply tragic that it shocks the reader to the core and leaves all reeling! Wendy Lawrance clearly knows her history about WWI and depicts it exceedingly well. Her rendering of different types of love, sorrow, fear and joy are superb, providing just enough twists and turns to make this story an exquisite account of how war affects and changes all involved! Very good read!