Seventeen-year-old Margot Allan was a respectable vicar’s daughter and madly in love with her fiance Harry. But when Harry was reported Missing in Action from the Western Front, and Margot realised she was expecting his child, there was only one solution she and her family could think of in order to keep that respectability. She gave up James, her baby son, to be adopted by her parents and brought up as her younger brother.
Now two years later the whole family is gathering at the Vicarage for Christmas. It’s heartbreaking for Margot being so close to James but unable to tell him who he really is. But on top of that, Harry is also back in the village. Released from captivity in Germany and recuperated from illness, he’s come home and wants answers. Why has Margot seemingly broken off their engagement and not replied to his letters? Margot knows she owes him an explanation. But can she really tell him the truth about James?
This is such an important book, that attempts to show the attitudes that people had to unmarried mothers in the early 1900s. Margot’s fiancee goes to war, and after she learns she is pregnant, receives a letter than changes everything – he’s missing in action. I really enjoyed this story, but looking back on it I can think of multiple problems.
We know that Harry comes back, it’s stated in the blurb. However his arrival is met with little fanfare, it was more, ‘oh he’s back now also he just did a bit of farming in Germany or something’. We never really got more than surface level with Harry, compared to Margot’s brother who came home with severe emotional trauma, unable to settle into a regular job.
I found Margot both relatable and frustrating. I fully understood her difficulty to connect with her son, but felt that as she grew up with siblings she should have had a better understanding of how younger kids work, it was like she had never been around a child before. And her constant “I should tell Harry no I won’t tell Harry I should tell him” because monotonous and annoying.
This book is supposed to be about the attitudes people have to unmarried mothers, but never really went as far as showing us that. All we got was Margot’s own thoughts about it, we never saw any criticism or prejudice from the village. Overall, this was a good story, I was just looking for a lot more depth.