Title: After the War is Over
Author: Jennifer Robson
No. of Pages: 384
Genre: Historical Fiction
Origins: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: 6 January 2015
Bottom Line: Historical fiction chick lit but with an impressive and timeless message worth hearing and repeating
“After four years as a military nurse, Charlotte Brown is ready to leave behind the devastation of the Great War. The daughter of a vicar, she has always been determined to dedicate her life to helping others. Moving to busy Liverpool, she throws herself into her work with those most in need, only tearing herself away for the lively dinners she enjoys with the women at her boarding house.
Just as Charlotte begins to settle into her new circumstances, two messages arrive that will change her life. One, from a radical young newspaper editor, offers her a chance to speak out for those who cannot. The other pulls her back to her past, and to a man she has tried, and failed, to forget.
Edward Neville-Ashford, her former employer and the brother of Charlotte’s dearest friend, is now the new Earl of Cumberland—and a shadow of the man he once was. Yet under his battle wounds and haunted eyes Charlotte sees glimpses of the charming boy who long ago claimed her foolish heart. She wants to help him, but dare she risk her future for a man who can never be hers?
As Britain seethes with unrest and post-war euphoria flattens into bitter disappointment, Charlotte must confront long-held insecurities to find her true voice . . . and the courage to decide if the life she has created is the one she truly wants.”
Thoughts: There is no mystery that England after the first world war was every bit as tumultuous as it was during the war, if not more so. Gone was the rallying movement of the war, so the fractious nature of England’s class society became more noticeable to a populace less inclined to submit to the status quo after having survived the hellishness of war. It is in this setting Jennifer Robson introduces us to Charlotte Brown in After the War is Over.
Charlotte is an interest amalgam of conservative and social liberal policies and beliefs. She devotes her entire life to helping others less fortunate and in serious need of assistance. She is a fervent advocate for women’s rights, taking great pride in her first vote and her degree from Oxford. However, her outlook on life regarding social mores is particularly conservative and old-fashioned. She does not succumb to the new fashions in appearance and behavior. She remains bound by the same peerage structure as has existed in England for hundreds of years. One would think the two could not meld together well but rather would be at odds with one another. Instead, there is Charlotte.
As one character mentions, for Charlotte, everything comes up roses, and a reader is well aware of this fact long before the character ever mentions it. Charlotte is one of those heroines for whom everything turns out in her best interest. Yes, this can be a bit boring at times, yet Charlotte maintains a sense of humility that lessens the potential smugness. She does have a tendency for supreme goodness, the unrealistic kind, but this does not diminish the story. If anything, Charlotte gives readers hope that mankind is not lost in its own selfishness.
The message within After the War is Over is more important than any of its characters. Regardless of the setting, through Charlotte and her friends readers obtain a stark reminder about the misfortunes of others. The novel’s themes of feminism, social justice, and equality through action are timeless. More importantly, Ms. Niven balances the urgency of these issues without crossing over into preachiness or soap-box rhetoric.
After the War is Over is a light book with a serious message. There is no doubt that Charlotte will end up with a happily-ever-after, and readers will get an immense satisfaction out of this. However, it is Charlotte’s drive and her passion for change which makes the novel quite impressive. She may be somewhat of a goody-two-shoes, but she is also remarkable in her commitment to others and her drive for self-improvement. She definitely practices what she preaches, and that makes her message so much more fulfilling.
After the War is Over is not a splashy novel. It probably will not receive a lot of attention or garner a lot of acclaim. Yet, it is the type of story that is immensely satisfying and leaves readers a bit more inclined to do the right thing. Sometimes, those are the most important novels one can read.