Monday, November 17, 2014

Past Encounters by Davina Blake

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Read: November 16, 2014

From the moment Rhoda Middleton opens one of her husband’s letters and finds it is from another woman, she is convinced he is having an affair. But when Rhoda tracks her down, she discovers the mysterious woman is not his lover after all, but the wife of his best friend, Archie Foster. There is only one problem - Rhoda has never even heard of Archie Foster. Devastated by this betrayal of trust, Rhoda tries to find out how and why her husband, Peter, has kept this friendship hidden for so long. Her search leads her back to 1945, but as she gradually uncovers Peter’s wartime secrets she must wrestle with painful memories of her own. For if they are ever to understand each other, Rhoda too must escape the ghosts of the past. Taking us on a journey from the atmospheric filming of Brief Encounter, to the extraordinary Great March of prisoners of war through snow-bound Germany, this is a novel of friendship, hope, and how in the end, it is the small things that enable love to survive.

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I knew I'd be reading Davina Blake's Past Encounters the moment I stumbled over the artwork. I didn't need to read description, I was hooked by the period alone and while I don't recommend selecting books this way, I'm happy to report the odds were in my favor this go round.

For those who aren't aware, Davina Blake also writes as Deborah Swift. It's not something I'd usually bring up in a review 
except that I think Past Encounters is favorite of her novels and that statement wouldn't make sense if you couldn't make the comparison. The subject matter spoke to me, but I also loved how layered this piece felt and while I don't dislike her earlier work, I don't remember appreciating the construction of A Divided Inheritance or Shadow on the Highway the same way.

Blake's manipulation of the timeline was truly inspired and I liked how the format allowed her to reveal buried secrets and historic details in a nontraditional manner. Her characters are fairly straightforward, but the way they interact with one another and the complexity of their relationships made them incredibly interesting and lent a degree of intrigue that I hadn't anticipated. Where the novel shines, however, is in it's underlying themes. The questions it poses about patriotism and duty, love and honor. 

Historically speaking, I knew of the Great March, but I'd not studied it. Being American I'm much more familiar with the Bataan Death March so I often found myself researching the facts behind Blake's story and isn't that in and of itself a sign of good historic fiction? I also took time off the book to watch Brief Encounter which proved a delightful and thought-provoking old movie. While not required, I think the picture added something to Rhoda's story and really emphasized her side of things which was great because I was naturally drawn to Peter and his experiences while reading the book.

Emotional, but highly recommended. Reminiscent of The Railway Man, Past Encounters is a brilliant exploration of the psychological effects of war and their lasting impact.

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I was jealous, I realised, jealous of Helen and worse, jealous of Archie, a dead man, who’d had a relationship with Peter that Peter didn’t want to share with me. My marriage was failing . I’d known it for years , but hadn’t truly grasped that unless I did something, this would be it. My life would be this. This empty shell. But now there was a chance . If I could only be a friend to him like Archie, I reasoned, then maybe the old Peter would come back, and cease to be just a memory, a memory that was slowly fading away like that old brown photograph.
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Check Out All the Stops on Davina Blake's Past Encounters Blog Tour Schedule

Saturday, November 15
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Sunday, November 16
Review at Library Educated
Monday, November 17
Review at Dianne Ascroft Blog
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, November 18
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book!
Wednesday, November 19
Review at Just One More Chapter
Thursday, November 20
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Friday, November 21
Review & Interview at Bookish
Saturday, November 22
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Monday, November 24
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, November 25
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, November 26
Review at Book Nerd
Thursday, November 27
Interview at The Maiden’s Court
Saturday, November 29
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Monday, December 1
Review at Layered Pages
Review & Interview at Casual Readers
Tuesday, December 2
Review at My Reader’s Block
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Wednesday, December 3
Review at The Worm Hole
Review at Diary of an Eccentric
Thursday, December 4
Review at Beth’s Book Reviews
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry
Friday, December 5
Review at Bibliophilia, Please
Saturday, December 6
Review at Unshelfish
Review at Historical Tapestry

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