01/10/2007

In my Father's House (by Bodie Thoene)

I hadn't previously read anything by Bodie Thoene, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. According to the introduction to the book, she and her husband Brock work together on novels - she creates the character and does the bulk of the writing, but he does all the historical research.

This novel is set mainly in the USA in the aftermath of World War I. Three young men - Ellis, Max and Birch - become friendly in the trenches, despite very different backgrounds. They survive many horrors, and return home.

Max goes back to his Jewish grandparents in New York; Ellis goes to his farming family and sweetheart Rebecca. Birch, however, has only his drunken father, after losing his mother in the flu pandemic that swept the world in this period.

There's also Jefferson, a huge black man who has also fought in the war, and who returns to his large and loving family, travelling in the same train as Birch. Unforunately, segregation was still rife in the Southern USA in the earlier part of last century, fuelled by the simister Ku Klux Klan. So although Jefferson is considered a hero in Paris, he is still treated like dirt when he returns to America.

There is drama, violence, loss and heartache in this fast-moving book. It paints a horrific picture of life in the USA eighty years ago, where racism was rife, as bad (apparently) as the apartheid years in South Africa.

I found the book confusing at first, as there are so many people and the story keeps switching between different viewpoints. However it was very well-written and believable, and eventually I found I could remember who was who without having to track back to the previous time they appeared.

Very readable; quite gripping by the end. There's a distinct Christian influence within the book, but it's not pushy at all.

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