Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Meadowlands by Elizabeth Jeffrey

Meadowlands.  Elizabeth Jeffrey. Severn House Publishers. April 2015. 224 pp.  ISBN#: 9780727884695.

Here’s another story about the ups and downs of WWI centered in the Barsham family.  They are aristocrats who cannot remain immune from the hardships and horrors to come, although Lady Adelaide does nothing but complain about how inconvenienced she is by losing staff and not having someone to fawn on her every wish.  Sir George Barsham is a Minister of Parliament who uses any excuse to be away from home.  The Barsham children all agree to “do their part” with James off to fight in the military, Millie to drive an ambulance to transport the wounded and dying, and Gina who starts a soup kitchen for the wives and children of soldiers who are off in Flanders fighting for King and country.

So what makes this novel different from the hundreds of other stories that have memorialized the causes and effects of this devastating war?  The first lies in the fact that England did everything possible to woo every male into fighting in Flanders but failed to take care of their spouses and children.  No salary or even part of a salary was sent to spouses and the families of wounded men received no recompense for their part in serving in the war.  The result was devastating poverty and Gina becomes not only soup kitchen director but also advocate for the needs of these present or former military families.

The second concerns the quiet but awful custom of committing pregnant young ladies into houses of insanity, followed by having to give up their babies and forever live in the deplorable conditions of their home.  Cruelty and ill treatment are described with disarming clarity.

The upshot is that this so-called “war to end all wars” had devastating physical, mental and emotional results that bear telling and remembering.  Elizabeth Jeffrey does so with sensitivity, accuracy and passion! There is so much more than what is described above which makes delightful reading! Well done historical fiction, indeed!

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