Saturday, 30 November 2019

Christmas Hope, by Caroline Warfield

"Christmas Hope is not typical Christmas fare since the story expands well beyond the holiday season, but it is a lovely story and one that can be enjoyed at any time during the year. "

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"After two years at the mercy of the Canadian Expeditionary force and the German war machine, Harry ran out of metaphors for death, synonyms for brown, and images of darkness. When he encounters color among the floating islands of Amiens and life in the form a widow and her little son, hope ensnares him. Through three more long years of war and its aftermath, the hope she brings keeps Harry alive.
Rosemarie Legrand’s husband left her a tiny son, no money, and a savaged reputation when he died. She struggles to simply feed the boy and has little to offer a lonely soldier, but Harry’s devotion lifts her up. The war demands all her strength and resilience, will the hope of peace and the promise of Harry’s love keep her going?"

Christmas Hope is not typical Christmas fare since the story expands well beyond the holiday season, but it is a lovely story and one that can be enjoyed at any time during the year. 

Harry Wheatly is a Canadian corporal in WWI who has carried his grandmother’s bible to the front. Though he’s not religious, the book is his only connection to home and he carries that memory into the trenches. A childish prank leaves the cherished book muddied and damaged. Running errands for his commander near Amiens, he tries to wash off the mud but loses hold of the book and watches as the river sweeps it away.

Living near Amiens, Rosemarie Legrand is a widow caring for her three -year-old son without any help from family or friends. She’s an outcast in the community, no thanks to the vile rumours spread by her former sister-in-law, but her resilience ensures her and her son’s survival. A few days before Christmas as she is rowing back to their island home, she rescues a bible floating in the water. Harry catches up to Rosemarie and  together they embark on a touching war-time romance that lasts throughout the war. 

Christmas Hope manages a delicate balance between love story and war story. Through both characters, we see the struggles of war, not only in the trenches but also the day-to-day troubles in war-torn France where food is scarce. When Harry and his unit were lined up to be the first wave at Vimy Ridge, I was sick with worry for him, knowing how hard-won that engagement was for the Canadians. And Rosemarie, left with few friends or resources and having to evacuate as the Germans approached Amiens was also a fraught moment. Even Armistice Day proved to be fraught with tension. 

Christmas Hope is a well-written story with rich period detail and engaging characters to root for. A book to enjoy no matter the season.

© Cryssa Bazos

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