Book Review: To Serve Them All My Days

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“It`s worth fighting for …”


“Miner’s son David Powlett-Jones returns from the carnage of the Western Front in 1918, shell-shocked and bitterly hardened by the violence of war. He begins life again as a master at a remote Devon school, controlling the destiny of boys barely his junior. As the years pass David becomes a teacher of rare talent, begins to find peace, and is able to adjust to the changes which are overwhelming society. But soon he will have to face up to the prospect of another terrible war…”

My Review: 

I picked this 662 page monster of a book up from the library on the recommendation of one of my friends. When I started to read it, I was initially impressed with the style of writing that made the book easy to read from the first page. The book is essentially a memoir written the 3rd person, picking up from the moments David Powlett- Jones leaves the 1st World War trenches due to an injury. We are taken through all the ups and downs of his life which begins with him taking a teaching position in an all-boys boarding school in Devon. The character development of David is excellent as he begins as a nervous young man and blossoms into a confident teacher and friend to many of the staff and boys of Bamfylde school. I also really appreciated how well padded out some of the members of staff were particularly Howarth, who was a personal favourite of mine. 
To me the key theme of this book is hopefulness and recovery, throughout the passages of the book we see David go through personal losses, defeats and tragedy’s but his love of the school and the boys in it pull him through to the other side. I`m also impressed with how the author created so many parallels, it created a nice balance which kept the book grounded in reality neither straying too deeply into despair or all-consuming joy. 
It took me almost two weeks to read this book, which is about average for this length. I do think it could have been condensed slightly but I only really have this opinion because around the middle of the book I became a little disinterested, thankfully the story picked back up soon after. I like a book that makes me feel, and this one managed to make bring tears to my eyes twice. I take this as a good sign as R. F. Delderfield has created people that I connected with. 

To Conclude: 

This book isn’t something I would normally gravitate towards as I think it is probably a little more geared towards a male audience. However, I think that if you enjoy a historical fiction novel then you may enjoy this – just don’t expect any exciting plot twists as it’s not that kind of book! In a sentence, it is a very good and believable account of a fictional soldier turned teachers life.  Its also worth noting that I wouldn’t describe this as wartime book, the start and end of the book are more centred around the theme of war but 90% of the book is about Bamfylde and David’s time there with an array of interesting characters.

My Rating: 3.8/5

Let me know what you think of the book below…

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