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on 19 August 2011
The Year After tells the story of Captain Tom Allen coming home from the trenches of the First World War. He is thrown back into the world he left behind, where friends are now scarred and saddened by loss. Events that had simmered and boiled over on the eve of war are once again thrown up, to be finally understood in tragic hindsight. Martin Davies has succeeded in creating an atmosphere of grief and despair, lightly glossed over by determination to uphold traditions of an English country houseparty. I enjoyed the characters that he painted and the details of the world that they lived in. It leaves you with a great deal to contemplate, particularly the idea that the soldiers who died on the battlefield were more revered than the ones that made it home. I would heartily recommend as a great page-turner of a story and as a portrayal of a moment in time when Britain was reverberating from devastating losses and trying to work out a way forward through the grief.
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on 14 October 2011
The twin viewpoint he uses here will be a familiar device to those who enjoyed The Conjuror's Bird which went down so well with Richard and Judy. But this is a more perfect book. I read it more or less in one sitting which for me is really something. I was absolutely gripped. Downton Abbey Series 2 enthusiasts will know the territory and so will those who know the film The Shooting Party. But lovers of Brideshead Revisited and Atonement (although the war here is an earlier one) will also find familiar ground. While the book is about 1919, The Year After, it is also about the year before the Great War and the gap between. The intoxicating aura of the golden boy, the painful recovery of the damaged survivor - these are powerful themes to ponder. Bravo Mr Davies!
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on 2 September 2011
I couldn't put The Year After down, but it is so much more than a "summer read". Captain Tom Allen epitomizes a man suddenly adrift at the end of the Great War. An invitation back to the country-house society of his previous life causes him to question whether that world, and more particularly its dazzling protagonists, was quite as it seemed. This novel highlights the veneer of pre-war polite society, which for those with a keen and dispassionate eye (or in Tom's case, the benefit of hindsight) was covering a great deal of rot. It also heralds the first signs of a new world, where women are looking for more than a "good" marriage, those below-stairs don't necessarily follow orders... and returning soldiers must deal with their physical and emotional wounds stoically when only the dead are heralded as true heroes. Whilst The Year After has a great deal to say, I particularly loved how well-drawn its main characters were (mindful of The Remains of the Day), and that Davies still delivers a good mystery with a historical setting. I reckon it's his best yet.
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"I had imagined peace would be a resumption of the world I knew; I had been wrong."

I thoroughly enjoyed another book by this author, The Unicorn Road, and thought the idea of this book sounded extremely intriguing, so was glad to get a chance to read it.

Tom Allen, returning to England from the Continent in 1919, is unsure how he survived the War, and unsure what life, now that he still has it, holds for him in a future he never expected. He is invited to spend Christmas and New Year at Hannesford Court, where prior to the War he had always been a guest at the same time of the year. Where then there were young men and women for whom the world was their oyster, now so many of them had gone, or their lives had changed forever.

The more Tom realises that the world he has returned to is not ever going to be like the world he left, the more he also begins to realise that the world he thought he had left was not the way that he had thought it was. What had been so certain in 1914, now in 1919 he realises that things were not the way that he had thought - there were hidden agendas, people with their own secrets, people who were not who he thought they were. Had he really ever seen anything as it truly was? And if that was the case, did the death of Professor Schmidt in 1914 really not mean anything at all? Even now, what is the truth? And does Tom really want to know what lay beneath all the surface veneer of the lives of those people of 1914?

This is a totally brilliant book. We read of Tom's rediscovery of life, and his rethinking of pre-War life. And in between, we read short chapters of Anne Gregory, who had been a part of the pre-War life at Hannesford Court, and who now seeks a life of her own.

This is a brilliant book; beautifully written, a sad and poignant tale of how the War continued to impact on everyone even when the Peace had been signed. Nothing would ever be the same, and this was perhaps the hardest lesson of all. Totally recommended.
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on 10 September 2012
Yes, I'm a confirmed fan of Marin Davies' novels and I think this is my favourite so far. I like the way this was told from the point of the survivors and how difficult that is. There is a satisfying plot that teases us along but also moments of tremendous poignancy and sadness. The writer conveys well the complex feelings of those who have been affected by loss but feel guilt at either surviving or rebuilding their lives. How we remember the dead is a recurrent theme. I felt I began to grasp emotionally how it must have been for that whole generation. Well worth reading and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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on 28 November 2011
Martin Davies has done it again with an absorbing and clever novel set in the aftermath of World War 1. Quite different to the Conjuror's Bird which I adored, but no less gripping. Highly recommended.
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on 2 October 2013
In the years before the First World War, Sir Robert and Lady Stansbury of Hannesford Court in Devon held a Summer and a New Years Eve Ball. One of the regular guests during those carefree times was Tom Allen, a friend of the Stansbury children. The last Summer Ball before the outbreak of war in 1914 was however shattered by the sudden death of one of Sir Robert's closest friends, Professor Schmidt.
In 1919 and just back from France, Tom Allen is invited back to renew old acquaintances and try to recapture a little of those pre-war days. Much has changed of course and many of the young men who participated in the general gaiety of those distant times have been lost in the trenches, including Harry, the Stansbury's eldest son and chief participant in the fun and frolics of those bygone years. Reggie, the second eldest son, although a survivor, is badly maimed and disfigured.
The story of the post war reunion is told by Tom himself and by Anne Gregory, who was employed before the war to help with the general organisation at Hannesford.
As the story unfolds we begin to see that behind the apparent innocence of those earlier times, darker forces were at work and all is not as it seemed.
This is an excellent, absorbing and very moving book. You feel for the characters involved in the unfolding drama and of their conflicting feelings of remembering those who have been lost with the desire to carry on with life. Hannesford Court is the only setting for this story and it is all dialogue with almost no action and yet it is compelling reading. This is not a book that you finish and forget, it leaves an indelible impression. Quite exceptional.
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on 31 October 2012
I chose this book at random for a break from heavy academic reading. I am always drawn to early 20th century settings, but the mention of ' country house' can sometime make me groan....all those literary-lightweight , cloned, books with Big Iron Gates on the cover!
But this was different. Gentle, beautifully written, huge attention to detail and so very, very evocative.
Lovers of 'Rebecca' ; 'Atonement'; and yes, I suppose Downton Abbey, dare I say it, will find something here. But it is more subtle and engaging than similar novels. I could 'see ' it, playing out behind my eyelids as I read. I even chose a cast.
This is a perfect book to curl up with on a rainy afternoon without having to worry that you'll be groaning at the clumsiness or inattention to plot detail at every second page turn. For me it was the perfect comforting novel.
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on 31 December 2011
Having thoroughly enjoyed reading Martin's previous novels and their twisting, emotional plots; I was really looking forward to this latest novel.
I was not disappointed.
Knowing how well his stories develop and how connected to the main characters you become I desperately tried to savour the book; being aware of the loss I would feel at its ending.
To no avail, whilst I managed to start slowly i finished the second half of the book in one go, who needs to vacuum when there is a Martin Davies novel to finish.
In one sentence he manages to make you really FEEL the gravity of the loss of a generation of men, to society.
This is a fantastic read and I can not recommend it highly enough.
Like a previous reviewer I also wish Mr Davies could be a little more prolific, however his gems are perhaps all the better for the anticipation!

Read and enjoy!
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on 7 December 2011
This is another superb book from a master storyteller. As ever, Davies is brilliant at evoking a time and place, which is extremely moving in itself, in this case as the First World War and its aftermath mould his characters and fuel a number of compelling narrative threads. At the heart of the plot there is a mystery to be uncovered, but also a series of expertly drawn characters to be developed and revealed. This reader was totally gripped, and anxious to discover how the story would be resolved. The Davies depiction of Christmas 1919 gives great pleasure and much to think about. Please get over your aversion to laptops Mr Davies - I am sure that would help speed the production of your next novel, which is eagerly anticipated.
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