Title: Dance the Moon Down
Author: R.L. Bartram
Publication Date: November 2011
Source: Provided by Author
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My Rating: Four Stars
In 1910, no one believed there would ever be a war with Germany. Safe in her affluent middle-class life, the rumours held no significance for Victoria either. It was her father's decision to enroll her at university that began to change all that. There she befriends the rebellious and outspoken Beryl Whittaker, an emergent suffragette, but it is her love for Gerald Avery, a talented young poet from a neighbouring university that sets the seal on her future. After a clandestine romance, they marry in January 1914, but with the outbreak of the First World War, Gerald volunteers but within months has gone missing in France. Convinced that he is still alive, Victoria's initial attempts to discover what has become of him, implicate her in a murderous assault on Lord Kitchener resulting in her being interrogated as a spy, and later tempted to adultery. Now virtually destitute, Victoria is reduced to finding work as a common labourer on a run down farm, where she discovers a world of unimaginable ignorance and poverty. It is only her conviction that Gerald will some day return that sustains her through the dark days of hardship and privation as her life becomes a battle of faith against adversity.
Bartram does something I love in Dance the Moon Down: he makes the setting so vibrant and enticing that it essentially becomes a character standing in the protagonist's way. That's exactly what happens in this novel. The oncoming First World War changes every single aspect of the setting: England itself changes drastically, but it also affects Victoria's life in the smallest ways. The war itself becomes a strong antagonist, standing in the way of Victoria's ideal happy life that she dreams of in the beginning of the novel. This war helps to construct the plot, portraying the lives led by those on the front and those waiting for their loved ones to return home.
I very much loved the main character, Victoria. I couldn't help but admire her tenacity and strength, which was showcased strongly throughout the novel from the very beginning. This strong trait continued to be showcased as her husband, Gerald, disappears, and Victoria begins her search for him. To be honest, I don't know how historically accurate her resources and struggles would have been during WWI, but I have the feeling that Bartram would have every base thoroughly covered. Through this one vibrant characteristic, I fell in love with Victoria.
The story was strong, engaging, and well done. I had only one problem with the text: at times, I felt the narration was too focused on telling the reader instead of showing. However, on the other side, the huge amount of information would have taken pages and pages to show the reader; at times, I was grateful for the narrator's quick relation of the historical details.
Final Thoughts: I would love to reread this book; there was so much in Dance the Moon Down that I feel I would still find new things to enjoy in its text years from now. This is a novel for historical fiction buffs and lovers of the turn-of-the-century. Definitely a fun read!