When I saw this book available for review on Bookbridgr I was anxious to get my mitts on it. I’ve greatly enjoyed reading Clare Morrall in the past, particularly ‘Astonishing Splashes of Colour’.
‘After The Bombing’ is the story of Alma Braithwaite’s experiences as a child during World War II and later as a teacher in the 1960’s. In 1942, 15 year old Alma and her friends are sheltering in an air raid shelter as their boarding school ‘Goldwyn’s’ is bombed. Twenty one years later, 35 year old Alma now works as a music teacher at Goldwyn’s. Her fairly sedate life changes when Miss Yates, a new headmistress is brought in after the unexpected death of the previous headmistress. Miss Yates brings with her sweeping change and a steely determination which both threatens and antagonises Alma. At the same time, the daughter of a man Alma knew during the war starts as a pupil at Goldwyn’s, opening up old wounds and causing her to revisit the past.
Alma struggles with change “And now Mr Gunner has reappeared. She’s conscious of sitting on a swing that has been steady for a long time and is starting to move again, gently but perceptibly backwash and forwards, disturbing her equilibrium.”
For Alma, Goldwyn’s provides stability and safety, she identifies her self with the school. The arrival of Miss Yates who is seeking change and new opportunities is upsetting for her. Unsurprisingly their differing agendas results in a stubborn locking of horns. Although I never grew particularly fond of either character I admired their strength of character. In fact all the women in the novel, Alma, Miss Yates, Miss Cunningham-Smith, Alma’s mother, Curls, are satisfying strong, brave women.
Clare Morrall is a music teacher and the role of music in novel is so important. From the untold joy and escapism found in the Lindy Hop to the Classical pieces in which Alma loses her self and expresses her frustration as an adult. When life is in turmoil music gives release and solace
Like Before The War by Juliet West, this is about living through the horrors of war at home, (albeit a different war). The course of life changed for everyone that lived through those years whether at home or fighting on the front. Events and traumas occurred that effected people for the rest of their life. The story does move fairly seamlessly between the two periods of time carefully demonstrating the lasting effects of war.
I did feel the book took a while to ‘take off’. Events and characters develop slowly with no particular ‘excitement’ until the last third. This however does not take away any pleasure from an insightful and enjoyable novel.