Historical fiction

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner


This is yet another book that very great reviews made me want to read when I started blogging. I do not remember where I first chanced upon it but it did make its way into my to-read queue . My amazing local library got a copy and it almost felt like it was my own copy, with the whole ‘new’ feel that went with it. I have treated it with caution and hope the next person who borrows it feels the same way!

I am a mood reader, as is obvious from my monthly Books Vs moods post (last month’s : September 2018) .The last few months or so has been hard for me to stick with one book for prolonged periods of time and decide on any particular mood to savour. I hear those people who only dedicate themselves to one book at a time gasp in shock ( in their minds at least ) but that has always been my failing, my need to multitask in almost all that I do. This book has cleared some of the cobwebs from my mind and I feel refreshed ( I might have mentioned this exact statement in one of my recent posts but I think I mean it more this time). I started this book as a filler before I fell asleep yesterday but was the first thing I picked after my morning chores were done. It held on and I did not give in to my weakness for an afternoon nap( a rare occurrence for one who actually read in a mostly prone position) . I feel fresh, I read a book and all of it was time well spent.

This is a story of a family, of the people in that family and all their actions and the reactions that fate has in store for them. I do not claim that I liked it all, some events or that for the most part I did not feel like I was reading a book based in the first World War and the only changes required if the story was transplanted into a more contemporary surroundings would be to change the year and some fashion sense. I do claim that despite these factors I enjoyed the book thoroughly. I wept copious tears for some parts, actually considered and thought more about some of the things these people realised as they learnt about lives and growing up in general.

The Bright family is dealing with a personal loss. They are a loving but not an overly demonstrative family. Mother Pauline is trying to come to terms with her new understanding of death, something which is mentioned in a lot of detail and her thought process interested me a lot. Father Thomas is taking up a new role in a job far removed from that of his family’s tobacco business. Eldest girl Evelyn is happy to move to a place which has all the answers, even if they are not the ones she would like to hear (I am paraphrasing this from the book), Maggie starts a chain of events that even she cannot imagine when she wants to help her mother in her new life to take her mind off a certain somebody and ends up bringing a baby home. Willa is the child who by the end is leading a whole other life. The following is one of her contemplations:

“..is the proof that out of a great pile of ashes you can still find something that the first didn’t take” – this was something that summarized the book for me and is a different version of the phoenix metaphor that is used more often.

I am a sucker for all loose ends being tied up at the end and if you aren’t such a person and intend to take this recommendation to pick up the book, take care to keep an open mind. More than the war and the questions it thrown into the daily life of children, the Spanish Flu in the focus of the story, and death walks amongst them , we are just given different viewpoints to the situation. Like the second half of Little Women, the girls grow up and though not all choices may make sense to us, their life plays out well.

If my review does not make it clear, I do recommend this to anyone who is a fan of well written historical fiction.

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