Wednesday, January 14, 2015

This Time Tomorrow: A World War One Novel by Rupert Colley

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: January 12, 2015

Two brothers. One woman. A nation at war. A compelling story of war, brotherly love, romance and betrayal during World War One. Vast in scope and intimate in the portrayal of three lives swept along by circumstances, 'This Time Tomorrow' moves from the drawing rooms of Edwardian London to the trenches of the Western Front and to the uncertainty of post-war Britain. When Guy Searight volunteers to fight with the British army in the early days of World War One, he leaves behind his girlfriend, Mary. While away fighting, Guy’s younger brother, Jack, seizes an opportunity to woo Mary for himself. Forthright and self assured, Guy has always looked out for his confident but frail brother and blithely promises his fretting mother that he’ll look out for him when Jack’s turn comes to join up. But embittered by Jack’s betrayal, Guy vows that when Jack has to face the horrors of war for himself, he won’t be there to look after him. When the brothers are reunited in the trenches of the Western Front, their thoughts are both with Mary. As Jack buckles under the strain of war, can Guy sustain his anger and allow his brother to suffer alone? A shocking event, catastrophic in its intensity and barbaric in its conclusion, forces Guy to re-evaluate his relationship with his brother, with Mary and ultimately himself. This Time Tomorrow: a World War One novel is a tale of love, loss and longing. 

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Rupert Colley's This Time Tomorrow was in impulse buy. I love war era fiction and despite its similarity to Private Peaceful, I thought the romantic story line had potential. The novel had a number of good reviews and I was genuinely optimistic going in which is probably why I fell so hard when the execution proved impossibly disappointing. 

Several reviews cited intense emotional drama and well-rounded characters, but I recognized neither between these pages. Take for example, Mary and Guy's relationship. The novel hinges on this affair, but the two are together only a few short paragraphs before Searight leaves for the trenches. Colley denies readers the opportunity to embrace this connection so there is no reason to get worked up when Mary is snogging Jack a few pages on. This happens over and over throughout the novel. The audience is told what the characters are feeling, but never experiences the development of those emotions. The end result lacks depth and appeared exceedingly superficial.

Colley's style was also difficult for me to get into. The narrative is very linear with little atmospheric detail or embellishment. The bones of the story are here, but it needed to be fleshed out. The narrative is also heavy with dialogue which would be fine if the conversations weren't wooden and stale. Nothing sounded genuine or authentic to my ears, a fact which greatly contributed to my lack of enthusiasm for the Searight brothers both on and off the front line. 

When all is said and done, This Time Tomorrow was a bust. Not unreadable, but not for me and not something I see myself recommending down the line. 

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For this, all of this, they had endured the hardships and depravity of war; had lived daily with indiscriminate death, pain, boredom and fear. For this, they had sacrificed so much – their youth and the illusions that come with innocence.
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