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3.7 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 10 July 2005
Homeland is set in 1946, in the depths of the countryside - an area that has not been devestated by the bombings of the 2nd world war.

However, even after the end of the war, its effects are still felt; large numbers of the homeless Polish army have been housed nearby in makeshift accomodation, and farm labour is short due to war casualties. Day to day necessities are also in short supply.

The book interweaves the characters of the villagers with the returning servicemen and the alienated Poles.

I found the characterisations strong, drawing you into their lives. Their hardships are stark compared to our situation today, but their attitudes are profoundly positive.

Interestingly, a member of our book group related recently, how her dad was a warden for a group of similar Polish soldiers living in camps in Britain. He apparently allowed several to go unofficially AWOL to representative areas of Poland to assess the situation there. As a result quite a number of Poles decided to return to their homes.

In Homeland, Clare Francis states that those who had chosen to go home were never heard from again, which prevented many from making that choice. It would seem that different information was making its way back to the different camps.

Quite a diversion from Ms Francis's usual style, hopefully there will be more to follow. I am sorry other reviewers did not enjoy it, this is Historical fiction, not a thriller!
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on 29 November 2010
The setting is the Somerset levels in the coldest winter in memory (1946-47). Britain is trying to get going again after the war. There is a large Polish Resettlement camp nearby. The background research sounds authentic.

There's not much of a story. We learn of the terrible wartime experiences of the Poles, and the hardships endured by the British. Towards the end there's a couple of deaths, but these are melodramatic incidents and seem to have been introduced mainly in order to liven up the narrative a bit.

Only two of the characters are well realised (Billy Greer and Wladislaw Malinovski), possibly a third (Dr Bennett). The author makes no attempt to describe the thoughts or motivation of the main female characters (Annie and Stella). I would have liked more of the two older Polish ladies, they were a lively pair. The author should have made more of the character Lynford Hanley, who, we gather, is a complex character with an interesting past.

However, the book is much better written than I had expected from someone who had made her name in a non-literary field (I must own up to my prejudices). The writing is pretty much free of cliche, and I like the way the central character (Billy Greer) is a mixture of good and bad traits (we don't like his anti-Polish prejudice, nor some of his attitudes towards women; on the other hand, he is honest straightforward, hard-working and organised).

The post-war atmosphere of deprivation and gloom is well-realised. And the author seems to be familiar with the area (though I note the comments earlier from the Somerset Levels Reading Group).
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on 6 January 2016
I enjoyed this book immensely. It was quite light reading, with an uncomplicated plot, with in depth character assessment. A love story set in post war south west England. Interspersed with different cultures, different hardships, different ways of life. I would recommend to anyone looking for a good read, with a bit of historical events thrown in. It was hard for those following WW2 for many folk. Not least those found many miles from home. Enjoy.
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on 11 September 2012
Interweaving the stories of the villagers of a rural community with that of the Polish servicemen living in a large resettlement camp based nearby, Homeland offers an interesting insight into the struggles of this particular community in post-war Britain and in particular that of the Polish servicemen but for me I'm afraid that's about as good as it gets.

Lacking any deeply meaningful story. The author seems to concentrate on the narrative and describing the somewhat bleak landscape and living/working conditions - goodness only knows I got to know more about the thankless task of gathering 'withies' than I ever thought I would - and whilst I acknowledge that this is a work of historical fiction and not an action thriller I was disappointed that the occasional drama fuelled moments seemed both ill thought-out and as if they had been added as an afterthought to pad out the narrative.

Character wise, I'm afraid to say that things were little better. Lacking in any depth, I thought the men mostly stereotypical, the women particularly poorly penned and in need of some padding out.

A novel with huge potential that sadly never came to fruition.

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on 24 May 2015
No, not the American TV series about Carrie Mathison and Nicholas Brody, the thriller by British author Clare Francis. Francis is a proficient thriller writer, but it is some years since I last read one of her books: until I picked one at random off my shelf one day.
Homeland is set after World War Two in the quiet rural corner of England that is the Somerset Levels. A land of rising and ebbing water levels, and unworldly place of withies and willows. Into this walks Billy Greer on his return from the war, going back to the house of his uncle and aunt where he spent the difficult teenage years before the war. There, he finds the house and farm in disarray, his uncle dramatically aged, and his aunt upstairs confined to bed after a stroke. And he meets again the woman who made his spine tingle when they were both teenagers.
Will he stay to rebuild the farm, or will he go to the promised job in London. And what of Annie, the local girl he could not forget while he fought his way around Europe?
Underlying the telling of Billy’s story is that of the Polish soldiers, in a holding camp while they await either return to Poland or settlement in the UK. It is a difficult decision: their beloved country is unrecognizable and run by the Soviet Union, but they do not feel 100% welcome in England. Wladyslaw, a literature student who left university to join the Polish army, is an intellectual and a dreamer. But he takes a job working for Billy Greer, helping to set the rundown farm to rights. And there he meets local schoolteacher Stella who agrees to give him English lessons.
This feels like a quiet tale - and it is not a thriller in the ‘spy story’ definition – but it is a story which kept me turning the pages. There are many uncertainties: the future of the Poles, the various love triangles, locals and immigrants living alongside each other without a common language with inevitable arguments and misunderstandings. The denouement is not what I expected.
Having loved this, I now want to re-read Clare Francis’ other books.
Read more of my book reviews at
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 6 October 2009
It is 1946 in the Somerset levels where the marshlands promote the growth of willows (called withies). WWII has just ended and an unending stream of servicemen is returning to the homeland. One of them, Billy Greer, is intending only to stop long enough to ensure his Uncle and Aunt are surviving well enough and perhaps see his long-time sweetheart Annie one more time. He finds his Aunt Flor has had a debilitating stroke, and Annie was married in his absence, though she is now a widow with a small daughter. Billy determines to leave for London where a mate has promised him a job in the motor trade.

Along with returning British forces are hundreds of Polish soldiers who have no wish to live under the Soviet regime. London is in the grip of a housing crisis and rationing has not yet ended. In a Polish camp on the Somerset levels Wladislaw Malinowski agrees to work on the withy holdings and is assigned to work for Billy Greer's Uncle Stan.

The atmosphere and hard conditions of work on the land and the stultifying hostility of the middle classes towards the Polish workers are well-conveyed in this novel. The multi-layered tensions of class - with Billy despising Wladislaw for being the son of wealthy landowners, and local bigwigs despising the Poles for being foreign and the working classes for being - well - working class, are ever-present.

There is a murder plot tacked onto the end of this book, but it is really about the experience of non-nationals in England at the end of WWII and the hard lives of Somerset labourers, with a bit about London housing problems slipped into the middle. It is somewhat predictable and some characters seem stereotypical. One who really comes to life is the scratchily sensitive and misogynistic Billy who has had it hardest of all. Again and again he lost my sympathies, then regained them, which is one way of keeping the reader engaged.
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on 10 October 2007
I was amazed to see the low rating for Homeland. It was the first book by Clare Francis I have read and now I can't wait to read more. I found it atmospheric, touching and educational regarding Polish immigrants into Britain during and after WW2. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys books set around that period and who would like to understand more about how the Polish people, who fought for Britain, in many cases chose not to return to their homeland.
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on 22 February 2011
Not Clare Francis' best, by a long shot. Took a LONG time for anything to happen but picked up towards the end.
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on 14 February 2006
Having read almost all of Clare Francis' books, I am rather unsettled about this one. Interesting background of postwar Somerset but the lead character was a most unlikeable individual - I suppose to allow for the possibility of later guilt. BUT his love interest was so nice, I felt like saying to her - but he is so prickly, obsessive, jealous, etc., he would be impossible to live with. I kept waiting for him to see the error of his ways, but the 'chip on his shoulder' remained. All other characters were likeable, but the 'victim' we only learnt about 'secondhand' - not enough to understand him.
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on 11 February 2006
As a group of 16 members all living within the Somerset Levels area on which the story is based,we were unanimous in our disappointmentwith the book. We felt that it missed an opportunity to reflect the true character of the area and the individual characters were not convincing.
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