The Deserter’s Daughter by Susanna Bevin
1920, Chorlton, Manchester. As her wedding day draws near, Carrie Jenkins is trying on her dress and eagerly anticipating becoming Mrs Billy Shipton. But all too soon she is reeling from the news that her beloved father was shot for desertion during the Great War. When Carrie is jilted and the close-knit community turns its back on her as well as her mother and her half-sister, Evadne, the plans Carrie nurtured are in disarray.
Desperate to overcome private shock and public humiliation, and with her mother also gravely ill, Carrie accepts the unsettling advances of well-to-do furniture dealer Ralph Armstrong. Through Ralph, Evadne meets the aristocratic Alex Larter, who seems to be the answer to her matrimonial ambitions as well. But both sisters put their faith in men who are not to be trusted, and they will face danger and heartache before they can find the happiness they deserve.
My Mini Review:
The novel is set in 1920 Manchester, with our protagonist Carrie Jenkins a soon-to-be bride. She lives with her jealous sister Evadne and grieving mother. In the opening scenes Father Kelly; the local Catholic priest visits and reveals a devastating secret to the girls. One that will leave them in a cloud of shame.
‘You defied God himself rather than face the shame of your husband being shot at dawn for desertion’ – Father Kelly
The mother’s long-held secret is then exposed to not only her daughters but the entire local community. Their father was court marshalled and executed on the battlefields of ww1.
Carrie thinks that she may find some solace in the arms of her love Billy Shipton. But Ma Shipton, upon hearing the shocking news soon puts an end to any planning nuptials. The Shipton’s don’t wish to be associated with the scandal of marrying into the family of a deserter. Carrie is now alone more than ever, and she harbours a secret of her own.
The women are tested beyond belief, when they lose their employment. They are ostracised from their community, a community that longs to see them in ruin.
In the background there is a spin-off theme of the doctors working to understand ‘mind-horror’. I felt this was a fascinating thread as we still know so little about PTSD and battle fatigue.
This novel has much more of a historical fiction feel to it than a saga. It lacks the warmth of the characters in a saga novel and the local northern dialect. But with that being said, the family is one in turmoil.
A personal story of a ww1 deserter and the family he left behind. 4*