I had the honour of receiving a copy of this book directly from the author (thanks for shipping all the way from Australia!), and was absolutely delighted. I don’t normally read WWI fiction but I am glad that I ended up stepping out of my comfort zone as this book had everything that I wanted – mystery, drama, historical context, and characters that form a vice-grip on your heart strings.
Title: We’ve Come to Take You Home
Author: Susan Gandar
Publication Date: March 28, 2016
Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Themes: Family, WWI, Romance, Time-slips
My Rating: 4.5/ 5
It is April 1916 and thousands of men have left home to fight in the war to end all wars. Jessica Brown’s father is about to be one of these men. A year later, he is still alive, but Jess has to steal to keep her family from starving. And then a telegram arrives – her father has been killed in action.
Four generations later, Sam Foster’s father is admitted to hospital with a suspected brain haemorrhage. A nurse asks if she would like to take her father’s hand. Sam refuses. All she wants is to get out of this place, stuck between the world of the living and the world of the dead, a place with no hope and no future, as quickly as possible.
As Sam’s father’s condition worsens, her dreams become more frequent – and more frightening. She realises that what she is experiencing is not a dream, but someone else’s living nightmare…
We’ve Come to Take You Home is an emotionally-charged story of a friendship forged 100 years apart.
It took me a few chapters to get used to the alternating narration and Sam’s time-slips into Jess’ world, but once I did it was easy to see how beautifully detailed and carefully crafted this book is. There is no detail that can be overlooked from the descriptions of jewellery and clothing to places and feelings many of the elements are interchangeable and equally important to both characters. While my love for this book developed as a slow-burn, even after a few days the vivid descriptions and raw emotions have failed to fade.
While I enjoyed Sam’s narrative and her connection to Jess, it was Jess’ story and the depictions of life during WWI that kept me turning the pages. It is all too easy to forget the food and fuel shortages, rationing, the presence of a class stratified lifestyle, and the horrors trench warfare that persisted throughout this time. And yet, the minute details bring these circumstances and so much more to life. The level of research that went into crafting this text is undeniable – I had never thought so much about maid’s-of-all-work, but my heart goes out to all that endured long hours, harsh employers, and often deplorable conditions.
The writing is sophisticated and flows seamlessly between Sam and Jess. I can see how the transitions might be confusing to some, but if you focus on the details and the subtle repetitions the transitions are easier to follow. The pace is fast, and very rarely are there lulls in the action or so much explication that the narrative feels bogged down. I found Jess’ plot to be somewhat more engaging than Sam’s, but really enjoyed the juxtaposition of modern and historical tragedies being lived out by fifteen year old girls 100 years apart. I found the introspective elements to be subtle, but they certainly pack a punch.
Tragic, beautiful, and bittersweet We’ve Come to Take You Home is a poignant and emotional marriage between tragedy and immeasurable hope. The problems portrayed are realistic, with real responses to the situations portrayed, despite the other-worldly elements of Sam’s time-slips. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend, and have no doubt that it will be enjoyed by lovers of drama, historical fiction, and emotional reads alike.
Many thanks to Susan Gandar and Matador Publishing for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.