Good morning Everyone!
It’s 1918, and on the Western Front in Europe, millions of men are engaged in life and death struggles in the most brutal of conditions for only inches of territory. But in the uplands of England, an elderly station master gently awakens a solitary soldier as his train pulls into the station.
With that, you have the beginning of R. F. Delderfield’s To Serve Them All My Days, an intimate fictional portrait of the inter-war career of one David Powlett-Jones, a Welsh miner’s son who obtains a position teaching history at a private school in England named “Bamfylde” after he was wounded on the front during World War I.
This book is one of my all-time favorites, a book that I have literally “read to pieces.” The first version I owned was a paperback, which these days is growing harder and harder to hold together because I have read it so much. I bought it in Kindle format a couple of years ago, which I suspect has greatly increased the paperback version’s longevity.
The fascination in the book lies in many different aspects. First, there is David Powlett-Jones himself, intense, likable, intelligent and dedicated, his growing family and the growth he experiences throughout the book through cycles of tragedy and healing. Second, there are the boys at the school and their relationship with David Powlett-Jones. Who can’t love a book with characters such as Winterbourne, the millionaire’s son who paints water colors and has his own private campground on the moor to escape to when things get to be too much or Chad Boyer, who introduces himself to David in their first class together with a fake epileptic fit. Third, the other teachers in the school are characters in their own rights, including the headmaster, Algy Herries, who has built the life up on the moor into a vibrant world of its own, irascible Howarth, amiable and erudite Barnaby and a French master with the carefully hidden first name of “Aloysius” to name just a few. Finally, there is the story itself, an intimate history of a man that also provides a panoramic view of the times he lived in.
One of the thrills of reading is the way it can carry you into other times, places and minds. To Serve Them All My Days does so effortlessly, providing you with an entertaining, satisfying story that leaves you, at the end, with new friends that live in on in your imagination long after the pages are closed.
Try it sometime! You’ll like it.
Have a great weekend!
P.S. If you do read the book, I’d love to hear from you to learn what you thought about it!