Heronfield by Dorinda Balchin – Book Review
Heronfield by Dorinda Balchin – Book Review
Author – Dorinda Balchin
Pages – 490
Release Date – 27th September 2012
Format – ebook, paperback
Reviewer – Jodie
I received a free copy of this book
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Amidst the bombs and bullets, the fear and confusion, it is sometimes the battles within our hearts which leave the deepest scars.
Experience a sweeping saga set in war-torn Europe during the desperate years of the Second World War. At its heart is a cast of characters who draw us into their lives from the defeat of Dunkirk to final victory.
Tony, a young man barely in his twenties who experiences the horror of Britain’s first defeat and offers his unique talents to the war effort, only to find that his secret work threatens his relationships with those he loves. David, Tony’s elder brother, fighter pilot and hero of the Battle of Britain.
Sarah, whose work with the VAD’s brings her into contact with so many, forcing her to choose between a man with loyalty and honour or another with all the characteristics of a coward. Bobby, a young American GI for whom a posting to England brings love and hope. And at the centre of it all, Heronfield, the manor house set amongst the gentle rolling downs of southern England, one time home for Tony and his family and now a war-time hospital.
Heronfield, witness to six long years of loyalty and love, anger and hatred, loss and betrayal.
Set in Europe during the Second World War, Heronfield takes us on a six year journey of war, friendship, love, sadness, and hope. We meet many different characters, a few of whom are taken right into our heart.
I became strongly attached to one of the main characters, Tony. A young man hardly in his twenties, he is secretly recruited as a British agent in the efforts to foil Hitler’s war. I found myself feeling sorry for him when certain members of his family turned against him for shirking his duties when in fact, unbeknown to them, he was doing the exact opposite, but was duty bound not to tell them.
I felt the turmoil and heartache he was going through. He showed a tremendous amount of strength and courage throughout the story – all borne by his passion to defeat Hitler, to prove to his father that he was indeed fighting in the war, and most of all, the driving force to keep going – his love for a woman.
Another character I enjoyed reading about was Sarah, a volunteer nurse. She gets stationed at Heronfield, a family home turned war hospital. She has plenty of heartache along the way but it makes her stronger over the years. As the story progresses and I found myself rooting for her all the way.
Some characters are constant, and others are fleeting, but memorable all the same. We come across a German soldier who makes us realise that they are not just the enemy. They are human too.
The German soldier does a selfless and heartfelt deed. We meet him again later on in the story and he has the opportunity to end a life. Instead he chooses to back down and explains that he doesn’t agree with Hitler, but if he doesn’t fight under the regime then he’s as good as dead anyway. It’s a touching scene and puts a different spin on the people behind the enemy faces.
The story grabbed me from the opening pages, with the graphic descriptions of the attacks on innocent civilians by the Germans. It’s harrowing but draws you right in, and you get a real sense of what actually went on during the war.
I liked the mini segments that gave real life time lines of what was happening during the war in various locations. It gave a sense of where the story would head next, and the progress of the war. They were superbly detailed without being boring.
The author has expertly carried out her research. The environment descriptions, the horrors of war, the abhorrent conditions of concentration camps, torture methods meted out, and many more besides are so wonderfully detailed that I found myself there. I winced at the persecution of innocents, gasped and grimaced at the torture methods bestowed on one of the characters, and I shed quite a few tears along the way.
My heart was in my mouth many times and the raw emotion grabbed at me and didn’t let go, even after finishing the book. I’ve never read a story that’s taken me by the soul and stayed with me quite the way Heronfield has done, and that’s a really good and beautiful thing – and a sure sign of a brilliantly well-written story.
Sadly I can only give this book five stars. I wish I could give it more but five is the maximum! An absolutely amazing story that needs to be read.
Book Reviewed by Jodie
Born in England in 1957 Dorinda Balchin graduated from Warwick University in 1980 and began a career in teaching. Books and writing had always been a passion for her, but with two children to raise and a demanding career in the field of education Dorinda’s love of literature was mainly confined to reading with little time to explore and develop her writing.
Then in 2008, along with her husband, Dorinda gave up her teaching career and made a life-changing move to southern India where the couple now run a guesthouse.
This change of lifestyle has allowed Dorinda the time to develop some of the writing projects which she has worked on over the years. Her love of history is clearly reflected in her well researched novels which draw you into another time and place peopled with believable characters with all the strengths and weaknesses which we recognise in ourselves.