HOMELAND by CLARE FRANCIS.
It is 1946, and the eve of the harshest winter for a hundred years. Servicemen are pouring home from the war to a Britain beset by stringent food and fuel shortages, and a desperate housing crisis. Anxieties are heightened by the unexpected arrival of the soldiers of the Second Polish Corps, whose refusal to go back to Poland is regarded with impatience and suspicion.
Recently demobbed, Billy Greer has no intention of returning to his parochial life on the Somerset wetlands. But in an attempt to impress Annie, the woman he walked away from at the start of the war, he stays long enough to get his uncle's neglected willow farm up and running again. As anti-Polish propaganda reaches its height, he agrees to take on a labourer from the nearby Polish resettlement camp, a young veteran of Monte Cassino named Wladyslaw Malinowski.
Stella, the local school teacher, has been waiting for the return of Lyndon Hanley, a hero of the Burma Campaign. But Lyndon is troubled, elusive and ultimately unresponsive. When he goes away again, she finds herself drawn to the beguiling and irrepressible Wladyslaw, the outsider.
As the country is brought to its knees by blizzards, the realities of post-war life prove too harsh for some, and a turning point for others.
..... Inner front cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1): He slipped back to the farm in much the same way he had left it seven years earlier, in the gloaming of an October evening by the drove-road over Curry Moor.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 231): He was wearing baggy corduroy trousers, a threadbare shirt, and the long shapeless knitted garment the English call a cardigan .....
MY THOUGHTS: Interweaving the stories of the villagers of a rural community with that of the Polish servicemen living in a large resettlement camp based nearby, Homeland offers an interesting insight into the struggles of this particular community in post-war Britain and in particular that of the Polish servicemen but for me I'm afraid that's about as good as it gets.
Lacking any deeply meaningful story. The author seems to concentrate on the narrative and describing the somewhat bleak landscape and living/working conditions - goodness only knows I got to know more about the thankless task of gathering 'withies' than I ever thought I would - and whilst I acknowledge that this is a work of historical fiction and not an action thriller I was disappointed that the occasional drama fuelled moments seemed both ill thought-out and as if they had been added as an afterthought to pad out the narrative.
Character wise, I'm afraid to say that things were little better. Lacking in any depth, I thought the men mostly stereotypical, the women particularly poorly penned and in need of some padding out.
A novel with huge potential that sadly never came to fruition.
KEEP IT OR NOT?: Ex-library stock, this is destined for a charity shop.