|Reviews for The Rest of the Family|
| konarciq chapter 20 . 5/25/2014
Debra's recommendation of this story in the thread on the forum got me curious, and I read it on my kindle the other night. And she was right: it's indeed a delight to read. So many new characters, each of them very distinguishable from the others, and all together providing not only a backstory for Newkirk, but also a realistic insight into civilian life in London during the war.
The most interesting (and quite recurring) theme is how they get in touch with the hated Germans, and they turn out to be ordinary people like themselves: the shy Major Lutz, the POW at the farm... The story about Gwenny and Eddie was particularly touching, too - especially with the events around Stalag 13 thrown in! I wonder if we'll hear any more of them? It's impossible to dislike Lilly, although the character of Maggie doesn't seem quite fleshed out yet. I suppose she's going to be the center of attention in one of the upcoming chapters?
My favourite storyline is the one between Mavis and Karl, but... what happened to Laila? Didn't they go to England together? Or did the fake romance never turn into a real one? I'd love to hear more about that!
I'll be looking forward to updates :-)
| Goldleaf83 chapter 20 . 4/13/2014
Your shift to Bert’s point of view in this chapter was unexpected, but it’s a brilliant choice. It allows you to show the contrast between his external actions and his inner thoughts, which is key in seeing Bert sympathetically. In the juxtaposition of past and present we see why he became the broken man that he is; even Arthur picks up on that, for all that he’s not privy to all his father’s recollections as the readers are.
Bert recalls Pete so vividly, with both love and agony; that loss prevents him from being able to connect with anyone now. The heartbreaking final paragraph shows how much Bert has absorbed his own advice to not “get emotional about it, else it'd send you round the bend,” while it also hearkens back to his one piece of advice to his son Peter back in Chapter 2.
The remembered conversations with Pete are beautifully done in establishing their characters: we see how they bury their closeness in banter, yet the genuine concern they have for each other shines through, particularly in the exchange about Pete looking after Bert’s family should anything happen to Bert. It makes the irony of Pete being the one to die, and Bert’s resulting inability to look after his own family, all the more tragic. And it makes sense of how and why he’s self-medicating with alcohol to cope.
You recreate trench life very vividly in what Bert says to Arthur too: the part that got to me the most was how Bert admits to having gotten used to the mud, stink, and vermin but hating the mice—such vivid detail there. Bert’s bitter hindsight about the uselessness of training and how they were kept in the dark about what to expect as cannon fodder was also enormously affecting. That fit well with how the brothers would get hurt and sent back, hurt and sent back . . . a dreadful process, knowing what they were returning to. No wonder so many men wished for a Blighty wound.
Finally, I have to mention how the problem of time threads through the chapter, first in the the clock description that cements Bert’s outsider’s point of view: he has no love for the clock because he has no love for the giver, and it suggests his own problems with the passage of time. I empathized with his bewilderment over his son’s lack of knowledge of his uncle: I’ve felt the same way, at times, because the past seems so near to me and yet so far to those younger than myself. The family resemblance further confounds Bert in this moment: he sees the family connections between the two Peters and young Arthur in a way that really only he can, which simply further reinforces his sense of isolation from his family.
| buggleston chapter 20 . 1/12/2014
Truely a powerful chapter that bringing insight to Bert's true feelings about his brother Peter during their time in a different war.
Reading Bert's vivid accounts brings to light his reasoning for turning to alcohol. This shows his signs of fear of loosing more famliy.
Thanks for updating the story with a excellent detail chapter about Bert it answers some question about actions towards his famliy.
| Sgt. Moffitt chapter 20 . 1/8/2014
This is a heartbreaking look at two brothers in a terrible situation, but it gives us a sense of why Bert seeks solace in alcohol, and why he pushes away those who should be close to him.
And as Abracadebra noted, it truly does transport the reader to another time and place. The sights, sounds, and smells of trench warfare are there, and so is the more homely ambience of a little sitting room with the clock ticking. (How like Mam to treasure the clock because it had been a gift!)
But what really got me immersed in this chapter were the absolutely believable conversations between Bert and Pete. The dialogue is so fluid and natural, the reader can easily picture the two Cockneys as they talk about life and death in the trenches. A tremendous amount of research must have gone into this to achieve that ease of discourse!
Pete's insouciance reminds me so much of his namesake...a surface carelessness that surely masks deep fear. So when the worst happens, it's all to easy to picture his brother shutting himself away from those he loves, and for him to fatalistically expect his sons to suffer the same fate when the next war rolls around.
It's a continuing source of fascination for me to think about those folks who experienced the tragedy and futility of the Great War, and then had to take on the challenges of a greater war only a generation later. Your story shows very clearly how one man was shaped by that experience, and although he's not a particularly admirable character, he certainly is an understandable one.
| Abracadebra chapter 20 . 1/8/2014
This morning I was thinking it had been awfully long since Dust had posted anything, especially an update to this story, and I dared to imagine that maybe she was wrapping up a chapter! Well, I'm not half chuffed, as our Peter might say!
This chapter illuminates so many questions about Bert, including his tortured relationship with his family. I thought the last paragraph said it brilliantly: "There was no good to be had in getting fond of him, any more than his brothers." It's fascinating that Bert's oldest son is the namesake of someone he clearly loved.
I have a child at my elbow demanding attention right now so I can't do a full comment, but once again, thank you, Dust, for delivering a chapter that just transported me to another time and place.
| Beloved Daughter chapter 20 . 1/8/2014
So glad you finally updated! Sounds like Bert has quite a case of Shell Shock... not that I blame him with the experiences and losses he has had. Still, it made me rather sad that he's afraid to get close to his own sons because he's afraid of losing them. Sounds like he's already well on his way to losing them anyway.
Please update again soon! :)
| Canadian Hogan's Fan chapter 19 . 6/13/2013
This chapter is layered in beautiful details, most of which have already been mentioned in the other reviews. Including them really breathes life into every scene. I only wish I had your touch for it.
How nice to catch up with the Newkirks again. Wonderful job.
| Goldleaf83 chapter 19 . 6/9/2013
I haven’t read any of this since chapter 12, so I sat down and read the whole thing through. It’s really developing just beautifully; I love how the chapters focus on the different Newkirk siblings and the ways they interconnect with each other’s lives. Chapter 13 provides a nice make-up between Mavis and Rita; Mavis is willing to give her the benefit of the doubt for the help she gave Lilly, and Rita’s own feelings are very understandable. She’s still attracted to Peter, but rightly miffed at him for the letter mix-up, and Fred is there for picking up and having some fun with. Her insights to Peter’s character are good, knowing he’s likely to jump at any opportunity with another girl, though I wonder if he’s as willing to allow his girl the same kind of freedom she assumes. Not knowing where she stands with him doesn’t help her, though there’s some irony in her decision about Fred, given that she does know right where she stands with him. By the end of the chapter, both Mavis and the reader are willing to give her a chance, and Mavis’s invitation is a sweet one, tempered with the war-time rationing reality to bring her own tea.
It’s nice that chapters 14 and 15 give us Newkirk’s side of things, and it’s no surprise that he gets a bit down from his birthday, and even more seeing the picture that reminds him that his brothers and sisters are growing up without knowing him. The chapter has so many nice touches that center around the photo: how even Peter has trouble telling Lilly and Margaret apart, the way Kinch picks up on how much Arthur looks like Peter (from the earlier chapters), and little Noel’s uncertainty about who he’s supposed to be smiling at, which is certainly a heartbreaker. What’s nice about this scene is that Newkirk’s feelings are on one hand no big deal – by which I mean that there’s no big tragedy at home for him to deal with – but we get something more important: we glimpse the deep feelings he has about missing out on his family’s lives. We see the emotional cost of the war on this one man, the accumulated effects of being separated from his loved ones. Two other nice touches are the way Kinch gets chosen by the others to sound Newkirk out, and the very funny moment when Schultz (of all people!) scolds the guys for being unmilitary!
Newkirk’s story about his last memory of playing with his siblings at the beach gets nicely picked up in the next chapter’s letter, which soothes his anxieties. That letter is such a temptation for him, and watching him resist it and not do what might cause trouble shows how much he’s learned to put duty before self. So the reward for it that Hogan manages is extra sweet. But in both chapters we see him regain his spirits by a clear force of will; I’ve never thought of Newkirk as the conventional British stiff-upper-lip type, but what he says here suits his character admirably. He’s realistic in his sense that he wouldn’t have had that much time with them even if he hadn’t been captured, but still, there would have been some visits. And we know from his letters to Harry that he’s actually pretty good at “the older brother lark” after all. There’s a lot of comedy in this chapter, especially through Carter. The whole Carter-lost-his-watch bit is perfectly in line with the series, not to mention Carter’s relief when Hogan offers to make sure Newkirk cheat him in the future! The art gallery is a brilliantly funny idea: the very idea of the illustrations of Hochstetter’s “amatory adventures” was hilarious, but the idea of Burkhaulter’s conquests described in dactylic hexameter really made me howl! Someone in Barracks 9 has a classical education!
It was a delight to finally see the previously mentioned Kathleen, and her story in chapters 16 and 17 provided an interesting counterpoint to the previous chapters set in Stalag 13. The lost wallet parallels the lost watch very nicely, and the English camp for German and Italian POWs has further equivalences in its senior guard and its commandant, though both seem more sensible than their German counterparts. Ahrens’s relief and delight make him a genuinely sympathetic character, and Kathleen’s emotional response to his situation feels natural, given the way she thinks of Peter when looking at the wallet the night before: her dream shows how much this encounter has burrowed into her subconscious. There were a number of nice touches in these chapters too: just a few of them include the picture we get of how incredibly hard the farm labor was for these young women, city-bred Kathleen’s dislike of the wide open space of the heath, and the assumption the men at the camp keep making about Kathleen’s interest in Ahrens (not entirely surprising, given what we’ve heard about the unfortunate Linda). It creates a wonderful series of emotional shifts for her: her naiveté in her initial incomprehension, her irritation with them when she realizes what they’re thinking, and her final affection for them as they help her.
I love all the correspondence chapters: you are a master at conveying information in such a compact form. And Harry really does seem to be developing into what Peter calls him, and it’s no wonder that Newkirk the serviceman thinks poorly of Harry’s newest idea of business.
Chapter 19 gives us another eye-opening view of the difficulties of having growing children while being on ration. You give such a vivid portrait of the material world of the period! The kids’ delight at the possibilities of the jumble sale is well reasoned too, suggesting it as a potential source of delight in materially poor lives and its potential for taking advantage of their mother’s expected abstraction. Arthur’s encounter with his father is just beautifully done, from those initially sagging shoulders that he squares to deal with the situation, to his determination not to waste resources on a man he despises, to his abrupt pity for his father that is matched by his reluctance become his father’s confidant. The mood shifts are all realistic: the boy’s emotions are complicated from past encounters, and he doesn’t really want to feel sympathy for the man. Like Arthur, I’m sympathizing with Bert, almost against my will. It will be interesting to see how Bert’s visit home works out when you continue this deep, rich story.
| Sgt. Moffitt chapter 19 . 6/9/2013
I'm so glad to be visiting the Newkirks once again, and to be getting another glimpse of the British homefront during WWII. Ordinary people dealing with extraordinary difficulties as best they can...I can almost taste the lukewarm porridge with a bit of jam, and I'm excited about going to that jumble sale!
Abracadebra has said it much better than I ever could, but let me add that getting to know each member of the family has been a wonderfully rich experience. No angels, the Newkirks, least of all the old man; but even with their very human failings there is something in each character that the reader can relate to, and their often prickly relationships with each other are *so* true to life. Poor Maggie, growing too fast for her hand-me-downs, and poor Arthur, forced to forgo his plans with his chum as he finds himself unwillingly entertaining the long-absent Bert.
What really anchors this story of course is the understated - but always present - strength of Mam. Her influence is seen in each of her children...why else would Arthur go and make his father a fresh pot of tea after all? And why else do the elder children do their bit for the war effort, and why else is Lilly so knowledgeable about ration books and air raids? And because of this (despite the opinions of his siblings and the admittedly cavalier tone of his letters) I have hopes of Harry turning out for the best after all.
Even Bert has shown himself to be not entirely bad. He's provided for his family on occasion (though his methods were no doubt questionable) and the fact that Harry's call-up apparently triggered the current bender shows that he doesn't entirely lack paternal feelings. And I suspect we will get a better idea of the experiences that changed him so much after he confides in Arthur.
Most of all, Mam must have seen something worthwhile in the man she married.
Amazing work, as usual. This would make a great novel to share with the rest of the world.
| Abracadebra chapter 19 . 6/8/2013
Even by the high standards of this excellent story, this is a remarkable chapter. Mam's resourcefulness and quiet efficiency are elucidated through ordinary events - keeping her brood well clad, well fed, and respectable against tough odds. Arthur's encounter with the old man was a real surprise - and expertly handled. It was fascinating to see Artie's irritation (dregs for the old bastard ... Chipped mug... No sugar) give way to a compassion he couldn't quite understand, wrapped in real anxiety about what a heart to heart with the old man might do to Arthur emotionally.
Your mastery of the little details of 1940s life is what makes this story sing. Touches like the shell-covered box from Llandudno... The boys putting their knees through school clothes... The newspapers on the carpet. I'm envisioning anti-macassars on the chair backs, while we're at it.
Here's the other thing that's remarkable. This is a fully imagined, internally logical story that is also faithful to the time and place. Every single one of your characters is sympathetically drawn, and that even goes for Albert, whose boozy musings on the horrors of war are heartfelt and real.
Thank you for favoring us with not one but two chapters
| Abracadebra chapter 18 . 6/8/2013
What's worse about Harry - his womanizing or his interest in war profiteering? Peter's right, he is a proper little pillock, and I hope military service straightens him out quickly. I suspect he's a lot like Peter at that age, before he learned the meaning of loyalty, friendship, and service.
| buggleston chapter 19 . 6/8/2013
Excellent chapter! I liked how Mam was able to keep the family going with what little they had to live on.
Poor Artie of all things to spoil his day! Would be his father coming to visit!
Curious to see what he has in mind for the family.
| Beloved Daughter chapter 19 . 6/8/2013
Thanks for another great chapter update! Poor Artie. All his plans ruined for the day.
I have to say that I was particularly struck by the amount of frugalness that was going on. It was absolutely brilliant and a high contrast to the way most people live these days...
| Page-Mistress chapter 19 . 6/8/2013
I wonder if they tried drinking vinegar to deal with gout back them.
When my mom had some trouble with gout, a co-worker of my dad's recommended drinking vinegar to deal with it. She was already on some meds for it, but she did anyway, and I think it helped speed up her recovery from it.
| buggleston chapter 18 . 6/8/2013
Glad to see a 2 story update! I was thinking about this story the other day -nice to see Peter getting informed about Harry's progress.