Literature and War Readalong January 30 2012: Zennor in Darkness by Helen Dunmore

Two or three years ago I read Helen Dunmore’s The Siege a painfully realistic and harrowing account on the siege of Leningrad. This was such a stunning novel, one of the best WWII novels I have ever read, accurate, moving, descriptive and captivating despite the bleak topic. When I discovered that she had written a novel on WWI, Zennor in Darkness, I didn’t hesitate and put it on this year’s readalong list right away. Helen Dunmore hasn’t only written novels, but short stories, children’s books and poetry as well. I think her wonderful prose shows that.

The story is set in a Cornish coastal village in 1917 and combines fact with fiction. D.H. Lawrence and his wife have indeed stayed there but the story is invented. The core theme seems similar to Return of the Soldier and deals with shell shock. But it is also a story of artists and writers. I have a weakness for books about artists and love Cornwall as a setting.

Here are the first sentences

One faint shriek. Then another. Three girls fling themselves over the top of the last dune and skid down warm flanks of sand. Marram grass slashes their ankles and sand kicks up behind Clare and Peggy, into Hannah’s eyes. She is the heaviest and the last.

Have you read Helen Dunmore?


The discussion starts on Monday, 30 January 2012.

Further information on the Literature and War Readalong 2012, including all the book blurbs, can be found here.