For Tom and Violet, their lives before 1914 couldn’t have been more idyllic. Living in the small British countryside parish of North camp with their son and two daughters, could they ever be prepared for the events ahead? In The Carpenter’s Children, Maggie Bennett takes the reader through a heart wrenching journey of an everyday family, damaged by the impact of war between the bloody years of 1914 to 1918.
Despite its recent publication, Bennett shows great valour in tackling a sensitive historical era, from which impossibility prevented her from drawing on any personal experience. Like any author she ran the obvious risk of completing a work that could be seen as unrealistic of the era – although the seed of doubt was occasionally planted, her prose rang true, and the reader is drawn into the war-torn and politically tense early 1900’s. Seemingly unfazed by this context, Bennett came, saw and she conquered, as The Carpenter’s Children grew bolder from the turn of every page.
With numerous characters to follow, Bennett was handed the challenge of travelling through the differing perspectives and personalities of father Tom, to children Earnest, Isabel, and Grace. But without the employment of character divided chapters, Bennett gently moves her way from each narrative without interruption, allowing for complete and utter immersion.
Despite Bennett’s beautiful narrative style, by the novels conclusion some story-points were left too ambiguous, and I couldn’t help but feel somewhat dissatisfied. However, after contemplation I concluded that this was Bennett’s only option. Having set her novel in a time known for its hardship and tragedy, it was only fitting that the reader was presented with this reality. This then forced me to endure the pain of each character living without all that they desired.
By Georgia Kelly-Bakker
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