Sunday, 30 January 2011
Book Review: Richard Wilde by Mary Fitzgerald
This book is based on an old diary found by the author and the story partly fictionalised. This book came highly recommended by readers on a web forum and although it only had a couple of reviews on Amazon's UK site they were both glowing.
Richard Wilde is 95 and told he doesn't have long to live, he decides in what little time he has left he wants to commit his family's story to paper so the secrets he has been hiding for decades will finally come out. The majority of the book is told from Richard's point of view and moves between the present and the past, as he deals with the business of dying while recounting his history. The book covers a period spanning two world wars and massive change. Richard is a no-nonsense farmer's son who joins the Army and sees action in India. As a young man Richard falls for Elizabeth who has come to live on his parents' farm, but he is betrayed when she marries his brother Billy. Their relationship is a major theme, as is the notion of family honour and duty.
The narrative covers major events and the minutiae of daily life equally well, and with this straighforward older man telling the story, while it is beautifully detailed, it never becomes overly sentimental. That said this book has the distinction of being one of very few to make me cry. The biggest secret is one that I had suspected relatively early on but when all was finally revealed at the end the impact was not lessened for that.
This is a wonderful book that particularly appeals to the side of me that enjoys tracing my family tree to discover more about social history. As well as being a fantastic although tragic story it is also a brilliant slice of history and a book I would have no hesitation recommending.