This rich collection of short stories by nine historical fiction authors delivers cogent lessons about the power of love and commitment to endure in the face of the destruction and devastation of “the war to end all wars.”
The centerpiece of each story is Nov. 11, 1918, Armistice Day, precisely the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when the worst war in the history of the world at that time came to an end. In the opening story, “The Daughter of Belgium,” Marci Jefferson describes the plight of Amelie, a single mother who is assigned to care for a shell-shocked German solider by the nuns who run a nearby hospital for wounded soldiers. Amelie risks everything to break into her family’s former home to reclaim a valuable painting that she can sell to ensure a secure financial future for her and daughter.
In Jennifer Robson’s “All for the Love of You,” Parisian Daisy Fields learns from her dying father that he had sabotaged her budding romance with an American captain during the war. This revelation propels her years later on a quixotic quest to New York City to find him. The ending is tender and satisfying.
Jessica Brockmole’s “Something Worth Landing For” illustrates how desperate, doomed people strike bargains they would never make in normal circumstances. In this case the American pilot who believes he will die in combat discovers he has entered a relationship worth living for.
In Heather Webb’s “Hour of the Bells” the stakes are complex. Beatrix, a German born widow living in France, has already lost one of her French sons and learns she has likely lost her remaining son in the waning days of the Great War. Her fury at her German countrymen burns to the point where she hatches a plan to avenge her losses.
Kate Kerrigan’s “The Photograph,” was one of my favorites of this collection. A Dublin woman in 2016 discovers one of her ancestors in her fiercely activist family kept a photograph of a British soldier she had met in the last days of World War I. We learn of the tender romance between Eileen O’Hara and Clive Postlethwaite, a British solider assigned to a post in Dublin during the late stages of World War I.
Organized and edited by Webb, a former teacher, this anthology was the result of a brainstorm about Armistice Day. According to a review on blackfive.net, Webb established as guidelines stories that center on any country touched by WWI in the time period either beginning on Armistice Day or ending on it. She contacted authors she knew who wrote about or had an interest in this era and the project took off.
This superb collection reminds us that amidst the ashes of war’s ruins, love can blossom. But the lessons go beyond that. These stories delve into the complexities of human relationships and what drives people together during desperate times. And that, ultimately, the will to live and love one another will prevail over evil.