A look at the trials and tribulations of family and farm life during World War II.
Lecouteur (The Brook Runs Free, 2009) reintroduces readers to the Thomas family in this sequel. Emotionally, not much has changed for the Thomas family, especially the Thomas girls. The mother, Dorothy, remains a strict taskmaster unwilling to take on any of the added work while the father, Fred, appears only engaged in the farm. In detailing a family with more than six children, Lecouter does an excellent job of establishing the sibling dynamics and differentiating each of the Thomas girls. Readers will feel sympathy for the overworked Mary, who works as a land girl on the farm, as well as the headstrong Grace, who wishes to be free from her mother’s control. In the midst of the characterization of the Thomas family, Lecouteur introduces a number of different plot developments that bring some of the reality of the war home to the farm. The Thomas family is left to deal with a number of wartime realities including rationing, farm subsidiaries, evacuees and an extreme labor shortage. The novel does a solid job of maintaining a balance between developing individual characters and portraying the overall environment of farm life during World War II. On the one hand, readers will find the same lengthy descriptions of harvesting and farm work found in the previous novel; yet not even the farm is kept away from the realities of World War II, with fighter planes and soldiers practicing maneuvers around the English countryside. The novel reads at a faster pace than its predecessor largely due to the added depth of the characters. However, readers looking for a starker, more dramatic depiction of World War II might wish to look elsewhere because the novel doesn’t depict graphic descriptions of battles or fighting. Instead, readers experience the war through the eyes of characters living in a setting far removed from the bombings of London and other urban areas.
Overall, a satisfying sequel that will engage readers with its characters and the depiction of rural England during World War II, although it may put off readers looking for a graver, serious historical novel.