Tuesday, December 25, 2018

56. God is an Englishman by R.F. Delderfield

Wow, I don't know how many of these epic, engrossing 672-page romantic histories I have in me.  I have to admit, it was enjoyable for the most part.  I wish I could have read it at a bit more relaxed pace, but its length made me feel pressured to not lose pace.

The story starts out in colonial India, at the end of some battle as mutinies are flaring up. Adam Swann, a commissioned soldier is brought down, but survives and discovers a ruby necklace of great value.  He decides to leave soldiering and return to England to use the rubies to stake some kind of new venture back home.  Upon arriving, he already sees the impact the railway is having on industrializing England.  He decides to take a horse across the land to see what he can learn.  He learns lots about the cotton mills and how England is changing.  He meets and marries a feisty beauty, Henrietta, running away from her avaricious merchant father and he decides to set up a business running freight via coaches between railway depots and cities not fed by the railway. 

Those two storylines, his marriage and family and the development of his business, interweave with in-depth forays in one or the other at certain crisis periods.  You also follow the paths of all his lieutenants and the regions they manage.  These are great opportunities for local mini-adventure vignettes, like the depot manager who catches an escaped lion, or the welshmen who provides the wagons that get the pump to a submerged mine.  They all are defined by their British gumption, common sense and basic decency, despite a range of political and socioeconomic backgrounds.  These passages were all quite entertaining and emotionally satisfying.

The marriage storyline is interesting and while weird does give a lot of time to the female perspective (as well as a second female character, one of his lieutenants with romantic tension).  There are quite long parts that dragged on where they get all introspective about how they learn from each other and go to other levels, etc.

I have to say that overall this book succeeded in taking me out of my world. I started reading it at the beginning of xmas vacation and I finished it on xmas day.  I sort of felt like I had my regular family vacation as well as another vacation in 19th century England, it so absorbed my consciousness.

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