FIELDS OF BATTLE by Kate Alexander


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Yet another working-class ""gel"" shows her mettle in this brisk run-through of heroics and romance in WW II England. Wee, timorous Rilla Gray, whose humble but honest folks live in small London digs, gets pregnant by handsome, well-born Barney Wainwright--a charming but slippery chap who marries her (Rilla's father's dignified outrage is persuasive), figuring he can wriggle out of wedlock after the war. And Barney's snotty, furious mother Winifred is eventually convinced by her decent bachelor son Dan that the Wainwright estate of Appleyard needs an heir. So Rilla is invited to live on the estate while officer Barney takes off on strenuous assignments--which, over the years, will include: moving his men through France to Dunkirk, where he's taken prisoner (Dan, unbeknownst to Barney, helps in the evacuation); an escape from a camp in Germany and a trek through France over the Pyrenees, only to land in a Spanish jarl; some desert warfare; and, after release to England, a drop behind the lines to organize French Resistance. . . which leads to a reunion with his former lover Yvette, who will die heroically. Meanwhile, on the home front, Rilla gives birth to son Jon and becomes a close friend to Dan. But she's still at odds with Winifred, and then, on a visit to Rilla's parents, baby Jon is killed: grieving Rilla enters the war effort as a nurse; the Barney/Rilla marriage heads for the rocks (Barney has been crude and sexually insensitive on his visits home); Rilla has an affair with a warm-hearted Norwegian--who (like Yvette) expeditiously expires. And even after Barney is wounded and shows up at Rilla's army hospital, there's no marital singalong. . . until a night of bombing in London when brave deeds and mutual respect for each other's new maturity bring the two survivors back together. With a snappy pace and some tougher fem/lib shadings than usual in the genre: a reasonably entertaining return visit from all those always-be-an-England Tommies, nurses, and home-fronters.

Pub Date: Aug. 20th, 1981
Publisher: St. Martin's