The Lark Ascending. Sally Zigmond. The Conrad Press. December 2019. Kindle, 304 pp.; ASIN: B082XCQ9ZH.
In 1919 WWI is over for many but for others, especially those who were conscientious objectors, their memories and suffering continue. Some died and others were so cruelly treated that their mental and emotional scars linger, affecting their current choices and relationships.
To begin with we meet Alice Fields who yearns for a better job. After returning an item that a rich woman, Rhona, left in the store where Alice was working, Alice naively is fooled into marrying Rhona’s son Richard. At first Alice believes she’s in love but that quickly changes at Richard’s cruel, belittling and even violent personality. Finally, on being accused of adultery after telling Richard of her pregnancy, she leaves him to live on a farm where many of the residents are becoming whole again after their questionable behavior after the war.
As the story continues, Alice finds love again with Michael whose passion has been sublimated into advocating for striking miners and other injustices. However, Alice is no longer the innocent gal she once was and refuses to wed Michael, even after her divorce. She wants to make her own way with her own visions and plans, in this case for a school for women who cannot afford education but have the ability to attain learning for a better life. Alice is bright, hard-working and fully capable of realizing her dream and inspires others to the same.
During the course of Alice’s residence at the farm she will learn the story of how conscientious objectors were treated and the tragic costs that followed. This is an issue too long ignored but now getting public attention.
Sally Zigmond has written a fascinating, albeit painfully poignant, account novel which is fascinating reading. It leaves the reader with many thoughts and questions about courage, resistance, integrity and debasement of those who are weaker than those with money and power. It’s fine, highly recommended historical fiction!