Past Encounters is a book you can’t put down and yet you don’t want it to finish. With echoes of “Atonement,” we read of the horrors, sadness and wasted lives of World War Two. It describes boredom and hardship and deep passion. I loved it.
Davina Blake expresses the tortured life of Rhoda during the war and her marriage up till 1955. Like her husband, Peter, she is concealing a secret which is keeping them apart. The reader experiences her wartime romance, a delightful parallel to the film, “Brief Encounters” and the terrible experiences of a group of British soldiers captured early in the war and kept imprisoned for over 5 years. She also records the effects of the First World War on the marriage of Rhoda’s parents. The common humanity and suffering throughout Europe is clearly shown as Peter and Archie try to escape and travel home.
Having grown up in the 1950s and heard my mother’s wartime stories, this story feels right. The details of getting a coal fire to light and shivering in inadequate clothing ring true. The drabness of post war Britain and the difficulties that returning soldiers had in adjusting to civilian life, must have made married life stressful in this era, when feelings were rarely expressed, but in this novel we see through both Rhoda and Peter’s eyes and hope that they will be able make a future together.
Davina Blake is better known as Deborah Swift, historical novelist and I am sure I will soon be catching up with the books she has written under that name.