Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Undertow-Jo Baker

The Undertow

Jo Baker

Knopf, May 15 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307957092

In 1914 London, recently married William and Amelia Hastings are excited over her pregnancy though he leaves to fight in the war. William sends home postcards to his wife and baby Billy. In Malta, William has sex with a local just before dying in combat at sea. His shipmate George Sully visits Amelia with William’s last postcard. Billy distrusts Sully so he protects his mom from a man he thinks is a lowlife.

When WW II breaks out, stand out cyclist Billy goes off to fight riding a bike during the D-Day invasion. He returns from combat to marry Jewish Ruby, who has had issues with George that she hid from her spouse. Their first child Will suffers from Perthes disease and his father is unable to love him unconditionally.

Will becomes a professor, but he keeps everyone at an emotional distance includong his first wife and their daughter Billie even though he wants desperately to get close to his offspring. Instead his father has the relationship Will wants with his daughter. Though Will remarries and has a son who fights in the Afghanistan War, he struggles with showing his daughter how much he loves her and wants to be part of her life.

This is a great British family drama with a strong cast starring in each of the featured decades. The storyline focuses on the impacts of war even years after the combat is over on people at the front and at home. Fans of epic sagas will want to read the mostly twentieth century tale of the four generations of “Wills”.

Harriet Klausner

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