Two wars, two affairs, one marriage. In October 1935, Edward Jamieson’s memories of war and a passionate love affair resurface when an invitation to a WWI memorial ceremony arrives. Though reluctant to visit the scenes of horror he has spent years trying to forget, Edward succumbs to the unlikely possibility of discovering what happened to Helene Noisette, the woman he once pledged to marry. Travelling through the French countryside with his wife Ann, Edward sees nothing but reminders of war. After a chance encounter with Helene at the dedication ceremony, Edward’s past puts his present life in jeopardy. When WWII erupts a few years later, Edward is quickly caught up in the world of training espionage agents, while Ann counsels grieving women and copes with the daily threats facing those she loves. And once again, secrets and war threaten the bonds of marriage. With events unfolding in France, England and Canada, UNRAVELLED is a compelling novel of love, duty and sacrifice set amongst the turmoil of two world wars.
This is a novel based on turbulent times and dealing with conflicting emotions. We meet Edward and Ann, a Canadian married couple, in the year of 1936 when Edward has been invited to attend the unveiling of the war memorial at Vimy Ridge, one of the places Edward fought in during the 1st World War. For Edward this invitation sparks a flood of carefully buried memories and emotions of fighting in the trenches and his role in the Signals. Through his flashbacks we are flung into the violent, unstable and vital role of front line soldiering in this hideous environment. Tod eloquently describes the sights and smells and laces them with the strong mix of emotions that must have been experienced at the time, fear and courage walk hand in hand and the struggles of survival were movingly written.
Edward also remembers his lost French love Helene and his motivation to go back to Vimy Ridge and face all the difficulties from his part is largely motivated by his desire to see her again and to find out what happened to her. From this springboard we jump into finding out about Edward’s marriage to Ann and his conflict about his longing to find Helene despite having a wife and children.
As time moves on in the present and the 2nd War looms Edward is again assaulted by recollections of the hardship and those lost, accompanied by the fear of what might happen to those he knows now. As this time Edward is called into service behind the scenes, training people to work with The Resistance in Europe, the look at the war is very different, but again utterly fascinating. There is an abundance of detail woven into the story telling, and it is done with skill and compassion for the terrible situations.
Despite all his faults I really liked Edward. I felt for him in his difficulties and wanted him to overcome the challenges that came his way. In my imagined world of that era his reserve and stoicism fit right in. I found it took longer to like Ann, but she won me over as she copes with her husband’s reactions to war, his affair and plays her own part in helping others in WW2, counselling bereaved women. As Edward and Ann’s relationship is further tested it is easy to see how they represent the struggles of many families in wartime. This novel being set in Canada made it a little different from other war novels I have read set in Europe and I was caught up in the fresh perspective this gave.
I found that in this novel the experiences of Edward as a soldier and his struggles in his personal life are interwoven in a very realistic and compelling way. Equally Ann has much to cope with and her dilemma’s and hardships are so believable.
Verdict: It was a great blend of personal journey’s and world wide drama.
Reviewed by Helen