After The War is Over by Jennifer Robson
I came upon this book at the free Dunster Swap Shed, and grabbed it since I really enjoy historical fiction, and especially the period around World War I. It didn’t disappoint. The story takes place in Liverpool, just at the end of the war, with some flashbacks to give background to the plot.
The main character is Charlotte who as the novel opens, works as part of the staff of one of the first female politicians in England, helping people who have been left destitute and struggling after the war. As a rare female university graduate, she couldn’t find employment after graduation, and in desperation, had taken a tutoring job teaching Lilly, the youngest daughter of an aristocratic family. In those years she had spent tutoring, she and Lilly form a very close relationship.
Also during those tutoring years, a mutual attraction began to grow between Charlotte and Lilly’s older brother Edward, who was the heir to the family’s Lordship position, but both Charlotte and Edward struggle to keep their hopeless relationship plutonic due to their differences in social class.
When Lilly, her student turns eighteen and no longer needs a tutor, World War I is raging. Edward was in France fighting and Charlotte took a job working as a nurse in a hospital that treats solders suffering from neurological disorders or “shell shock” caused by the war. When the war ended, she moved on to work in the constituency office of the female politician.
The storyline deals ultimately with Charlotte’s relationship with Edward, who after the war is an amputee, suffering from severe shell shock, but who gains lordship after the death of his father. He is so emotionally messed up he cannot deal with his new position or life, causing Lilly to call upon Charlotte’s nursing experience to help her brother. You can probably guess where this leads.
Like all good historical fiction, the reader is given lots of insight into life and the political movements of the time. There is the rise of feminism, the social disruption caused by all the human losses in the war, and breakdown of the class system.
I very much enjoyed “After the War is Over”. It is a straight forward story, easy to read, which kept my interest all the way through. I was so impressed with the book, on my next trip to the library I checked-out Somewhere in France, which is Jennifer Robson’s first novel, and a prequel to this one, set during the war and features the same set of characters as this novel.