The Last Casualty - Andrew Leatham
Following the demise of her Nan Joanne Neally, whilst inspecting the old ladies possessions, discovers documents relating the death of her great grandfather Wilfred Isherwood during the Great War. She is intrigued, and eager to discover more and visits Arthur, an old army colleague of Wilf's, still alive in a residential home. She is horrified to learn the conditions that her great grandfather endured at the battle of Passchendaele and his ultimate fate. Forsaking family life, an abusive husband Frank, sacked from her place of employment, she travels to the Ypres area of Belgium. I do have a few issues with this story, and find it hard to understand why this independent and single minded woman should remain in a relationship with such a controlling man as Frank. He is a bully and a drunk , a man subject to fits of temper expecting his spouse to attend to his every needs while he drinks away the family budget at the local public house. It also seems totally implausible that Joanne would immediately abandon her children and travel to Belgium especially as repossession of the family home is now a distinct possibility. However even more absurd Joanne, whilst drinking at the hotel bar makes the acquaintance of a local man, Jacques Freyhoek, and in a very short time they retire to her bedroom for a night of passion! When he leaves the following morning she is horrified to discover that her wedding/engagement rings, passport and money are all missing! How could this intelligent woman be so easily misled and tricked. Disillusioned and disheartened she pays a final trip to Wilf's grave and as she stands alone amongst the sad departed a voice calls out her name......her drunken, controlling, abusive partner Frank has found her and pleads with her to return home...This intelligent, attractive woman apologises to her husband for her behaviour and returns to the family nest where presumably the bullying and abusive behaviour continue.... I enjoyed the ideals behind this story and many of the descriptions..."The small talk of soldiers, young men from opposite sides of the world with nothing in common except a burning desire to survive, to escape, to return to a way of life in which destruction suffering and death was not commonplace"....However the characters were feeble and it seemed to me hopelessly impossible that a woman, with such a burning ambition and single mindedness could be so inadequate and weak in dealing with a very abusive and controlling partner. Equally her decisions whilst in Belgium were totally at odds with her reasons for visiting. Having said that I quite enjoyed reading this short story as it detailed the life and sordid conditions that young soldiers faced on a daily basis on the killing fields of France. Many thanks to the good people of netgalley for sending me a gratis copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, and that is what I have written.