About the Book
Margate 1920. The Great War is over but Britain mourns and its spirit is not yet mended.
Edward and William have returned from the front as changed men. Together they have survived grotesque horrors and remain haunted by memories of comrades who did not come home. The summer season in Margate is a chance for them to rebuild their lives and reconcile the past.
Evelyn and Catherine are young women ready to live life to the full. Their independence has been hard won and, with little knowledge of the cost of their freedom, they are ready to face new challenges side by side.
Can they define their own future and open their hearts to the prospect of finding love? Will the summer of 1920 be a turning point for these new friends? As the body of the Unknown Warrior is returned, can the nation find a way forward?
The Blue Bench is a novel following four characters in the aftermath of the first world war. Edward and William have returned from the front but they are forever changed by what they have been through. Catherine and Evelyn are two young women keen to get on with their lives. The book is about their journeys as they each try to look to the future. The novel is predominantly told from the perspectives of Edward and Evelyn but all four of these characters feature all the way through.
The Blue Bench opens with a visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which for the people concerned is an annual pilgrimage. The book then goes back in time to 1920 when we meet Edward, William, Catherine and Evelyn. It is such a beautiful and moving novel. It is a melancholy book but there are moments of lightness to balance the dark. It’s a meandering story that follows these four characters as they each try to build a life for themselves in the new world they find themselves in post war.
Edward was the character I was most fascinated by. He has suffered an horrendous facial injury in the war and has to wear an uncomfortable tin mask. He suffers great pain and requires more and more painkillers to get any kind of relief and this leads to him procuring these medications by whatever means necessary. I felt such sympathy for him as he struggles. I have no idea what it is to go to war but I do know what it’s like to have an obvious disability and to suffer with chronic pain, Paul Marriner captures this so well. Edward is a wonderful pianist, he enjoys playing piano and it seems to take him out of his real life for a while. People really enjoy his playing but it still is shocking to some of his audiences when they see his face; it’s as if the beauty of his playing is somehow cancelled out for people by the injury to his face. There is always something of a distance around Edward, even when his closest friend William is with him, it’s as if he can no longer allow himself to fully engage with people and life. I could feel his loneliness even when he was with people. I was rooting for him all the way through the novel and was hoping that he would beat the odds and find some happiness and calm in his life.
William is different to Edward, he’s more outgoing and a bit of a ladies’ man but he does have a caring side to him. He looks out for Edward, and tries to keep his mood buoyed up. Catherine and Evelyn are great characters too. I loved their friendship and the way they supported and encouraged each other. It’s so wonderful to find a novel where there are female characters who have each other’s backs, I really enjoyed reading about their growing friendship and seeing where life took them.
I very much appreciated how real events and people were interwoven into this novel, particularly the way the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier came to be. I found these parts of the novel incredibly moving. I knew about the unknown soldier but to see the story of this brought to life in this story gave me goosebumps. It’s a real gift to write a work of fiction but to bring in real elements of history and make you feel as if you were there, to give you a new understanding of just how much something mattered.
I listened to The Blue Bench on audio book and the narrater, Colleen MacMahon, is wonderful. The pacing of the book was just right and she struck the right tone for the nature of the novel. She really made this book a joy to listen to and I will definitely be looking out for more audio books narrated by her. The audio is nineteen and a half hours long but it was one of those books that I was loving so much that I just didn’t want it to end.
I felt really quite bereft on finishing this novel. I loved every minute that I spent listening to it and I miss the characters. I still find myself wondering about them, they became so real to me. The Blue Bench is an incredible novel and one I won’t forget. It is a melancholy read, there is pain and sadness running through it but there is also fun and laughter and love – the novel may be set just after the Great War but the themes are universal and timeless in many respects. It’s a true reflection on how life is and I adored it beyond words. This will be one of those rare books that I will re-read in the future because I loved it so very much. I recommend this to everyone, it really is a stunning novel!
Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Paul Marriner for my copy of this audio book. All thoughts are my own.
The Blue Bench is out now in audio book and available here. It is also
About the Author
Paul grew up in a west London suburb and now lives in Berkshire with his wife and two children. He is passionate about music, sport and, most of all, writing, on which he now concentrates full-time. Paul has written four novels and his primary literary ambition is that you enjoy reading them while he is hard at work on the next one (but still finding time to play drums with Redlands and Rags 2 Riches).
You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs: