As August approaches we are reminded that this year is the centenary of the First World War. On August 4th 1914 Britain declared war on Germany and set in motion one of the darkest episodes of English history. In the June of that year the author John Galsworthy wrote a critique of the younger generation in which he remarked that “they had been born to dance the moon down to ragtime”, and we all know what happened next.
It was the very irony of Galsworthy’s statement that inspired me to write my debut novel “Dance the Moon Down” From the outset the biggest challenge I faced was to produce something different on one of the most written about subjects in the world. Neither did I have any intention of adding yet another WW1 story to the mountainous pile that already exists. So I left the mud and trenches of Flanders behind and began to search nearer home. It was there that I discovered the women of Britain.
Extensive research revealed to me that this, incredibly, was an area which had been left relatively untouched. Based on this I decided to make my central character a civilian woman. Thus, “Victoria” was born. An upper-middle class girl, privileged, highly educated (something of an anomaly for those days) whose naive perception of the harsh realities unfolding around her are mirrored by the nation.
I had always intended that my novel should cater not only for those readers with some grasp of WW1 but also for those who have none. To that end I created, what I choose to call, a “docu -drama” This is a medium by which the reader can assimilate the necessary facts and understand why the story unfolds as it does, with myself, the author, acting as an omniscient narrator offering a counterpoint of modern hindsight. It has been said “never let a fact get in the way of a good story.” I do, and they don’t.
Essentially “Dance the Moon Down” is Victoria’s story, a tale of one young woman’s courage and faith against almost overwhelming odds. Through her the reader will experience, first hand, a hitherto untold version of the First World War.
If you were to ask me what kind of a novel I think “Dance the Moon Down” is, I would have to say that first and foremost, I hope, it’s a rattling good read, but it’s also something of a chimera. It’s a non-war war story, it’s a romance with virtually only one participant, it’s an adventure without weapons and a story from a woman’s prospective, written by a man, generally classified as “Historical Drama”.
Throughout this year you will doubtless hear the phrase “Lest we forget”. Agreed, we haven’t forgotten the mud, the trenches, the poppies and the men they represent, but that’s only part of the story. To my mind what we , tragically, always overlook is that the men and, most particularly, the women who lived through those times are not mere images from history, but ordinary flesh and blood people who, like ourselves, treasured their lives as much as we do now. And that is what Dance the Moon Down is truly about.
About the bookIn 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 enrol 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 and 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.