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REVIEW: "Motherland"--sweeping WWII saga from acclaimed author & screenwriter William Nicholson

 Motherland  

 

You come from a long line of mistakes, Guy Caulder tells his daughter Alice. My mother married the wrong man. Her mother did the same.

At the end of a love affair, Alice journeys to Normandy to meet Guy's mother, the grandmother she has never known. She tells her granddaughter that, in spite of the troubles her family has faced, there was one true love story in her past.

In the summer of 1942, Kitty is an ATS driver stationed in Sussex. She meets Ed, a Royal Marine commando, and Larry, a liaison officer with Combined Operations under the command of Louis Mountbatten. Kitty falls instantly in love with Ed, who falls in love with her. So does Larry.

Mountbatten mounts a sea borne raid on the beaches of German-occupied Dieppe in northern France. One of the worst disasters of the war, it has a profound effect on both Larry and Ed, and its repercussions will echo through the generations to come.  

 

MY REVIEW:  Accomplished author William Nicholson struck a resonant chord with me as a reader in "Motherland", a sweeping tale of romance, human drama, and survival. I am deeply drawn to the poignancy, passion, and patriotism of the WWII era. I am in my early fifties, and the stories told to me by my mother and her parents of life during this time helped to shape the person I am today. I also had a very dear friend, an older gentleman who had served as a US Navy gunnery sighter aboard a noted WWII battleship in the Pacific. His vivid recollections of his combat experiences are just like photos in my own mind. "Motherland" begins with a young woman meeting her grandmother for the first time. Born out of wedlock to a disinterested father, Guy Caulder, Alice Dickinson is eager to pull the pieces of her disjointed heritage together. Surprisingly, during one of her rare shared moments with her father, he informs her that his mother is very much alive and living in Normandy, France. Alice journeys to meet her grandmother, Pamela Avenell, whose remembrances of her own mother, Kitty Teale, and the two men whom she loved, and was loved by in return: Ed Avenell and Larry Cornford are intertwined with the horrors and heroism of WWII. In Sussex, England, in 1942, Kitty was a young and pretty army driver who met Ed, a Royal Marine commando, and Larry, a liaison officer. Kitty and Ed soon fall in love, but Larry also loves Kitty. The two men go off to war, with Ed returning a war hero and claiming Kitty as his prize. However, the war which changed the world forever has left its mark on Ed, a mark which tragically remained indelible. As the years pass, the darkness which often overcomes Ed casts a shadow upon his life with Kitty, and she is more and more drawn to Larry for comfort. Eventually, after years of yearning, Kitty and Larry will be together, but not without great personal cost. "Motherland" is much more than a complex love story. It is the story of humankind in the midst of a mighty battle against an evil and insidious foe. While one side may eventually surrender the victory to its opponent, a war never really ends. Its effects are widespread and consuming, with spots of hope for humanity rising here and there from the ashes. William Nicholson has written a well-researched, thoughtfully-told tale of heartbreak and redemption. For many survivors of war, their day-to-day lives are ever filled with sights and sounds from a battle fought long ago--their memories never fade.

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 William Nicholson  Author William Nicholson is also one of the most successful Hollywood scriptwriters, twice Oscar nominated, the go-to man for big characters, big stories and worldwide audiences. From Shadowlands to Gladiator, to the current Les Misérables and next A Long Walk To Freedom — the Nelson Mandela biopic being released later this year.

William Nicholson was born in 1948, and grew up in Sussex and Gloucestershire. He was educated at Downside School and Christ’s College, Cambridge, and then joined BBC Television, where he worked as a documentary film maker. There his ambition to write, directed first into novels, was channeled into television drama. His plays for television include Shadowlands and Life Story , both of which won the BAFTA Best Television Drama award in their year; other award-winners were Sweet As You Are and The March . In 1988 he received the Royal Television Society’s Writer’s Award. His first play, an adaptation of Shadowlands for the stage, was Evening Standard Best Play of 1990, and went on to a Tony Award winning run on Broadway. He was nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay of the film version, which was directed by Richard Attenborough and starred Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.

Since then he has written more films – Sarafina, Nell, First Knight, Grey Owl , Gladiator (as co-writer), for which he received a second Oscar nomination, and Elizabeth: the Golden Age. He has written and directed his own film, Firelight; and four further stage plays, Map of the Heart, Katherine Howard, The Retreat from Moscow , which ran for five months on Broadway and received three Tony Award nominations, and Crash.

His novel for older children, The Wind Singer, won the Smarties Prize Gold Award on publication in 2000, and the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award in 2001. Its sequel, Slaves of the Mastery , was published in 2001, and the final volume in the trilogy, Firesong , in 2002. The trilogy has been sold in every major foreign market, from the US to China.

His second sequence of fantasy novels is called The Noble Warriors. The first book is Seeker (2005), the second book, Jango (2006) and the third book Noman (2007).

His novels for adults are The Society of Others (2004), The Trial of True Love (2005), The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life (2009), All the Hopeful Lovers (2010) and The Golden Hour (2011).

His love-and-sex novel for teens, Rich and Mad, was published in 2010.

He lives in Sussex, England with his wife Virginia and their three children.