Beyond the Fringe

I trust you have coped with the defining roar of silence from Northernreader – on holiday and no internet connection, well, apart from the offsprings’ clever but little phones.   So I contented myself with visiting many interesting places, as well as running a trip to the Falkirk wheel for a mob of people needing to be distracted from the heady excitements of waiting for A level results. Yes, this Thursday is results day – so drowning our sorrows or celebrating, anyone? Happily some of us are past all that and are far more excited about our current/ future courses – daughter has just finished fifth consecutive year of higher education…

And we got to 4 Fringe shows!

Anyway, today’s book is War Damage by Elizabeth Wilson. Set in immediately post war (and Blitz) London, it combines detailed descriptions of the physical damage to the buildings with the intense emotional damage to the members of a smart set of people drawn together at the informal gatherings of Regine. All the characters have their secrets, their attachments to others or a cause. A murder propels the book, but this is far from a murder mystery in any usual sense, which perhaps reflects the messy, unclear realism of a time when death was common and cruelty to others only fulfilled the context of so many uncertainties of wartime.

I enjoyed this book, if only for the atmosphere, the strength of the characters portrayed, and the ending for rounding up all the loose ends. All the characters, including the police, have their own motivations and their preoccupations which dovetail to provide the narrative.  The sights, sounds, and settings for tense interviews as well as encounters of a more intimate nature are not jolly affairs of wartime spirit, but more human, more realisic, more messy. This is a book which owes more to someone like John le Carre than “how we won the war” memoirs, and I would like to read Wilson’s “The Twilight Hour” which is apparently more official Cold War.

This is not a cheerful book, but an intensely realistic one, and probably all the better for it. It introduces many themes of wartime morality, betrayal and fear, as well as portraying the sexual tensions of many individuals. This is not a romance in any sense, but neither is it a tragedy; it reflects all the everyday obsessions that fuel many lives. Definitely worth reading as a snapshot of damaged lives.

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