This debut novel of three women whose lives have been permanently changed and damaged by the 1914-1918 war is told over five days in 1920 while London prepares for the funeral of the 'Unknown Soldier'. The characters are very believable; but I felt the overall texture of the novel might have benefited from a little light relief. Excellent on atmosphere and social conventions of the times.
Sunday, 7 November 1920
They stand slowly. The private rubs the small of his back, looking down at the meagre remains of the man they have unearthed, lying twisted on his side. A thought rises in him, unbidden: his brother died here. In a field like this in France. They never found his body. What if this were him?
But there is no way of knowing at all.
He looks back up at the colonel. Impossible to tell if this is the body he was searching for either. This has been a waste of time. He waits for the man's reaction, bracing himself for the expected anger on his face.
But the colonel only nods.
'Good' he says, chucking his cigarette on the earth. 'Now lift him out and put him in the sack.