Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary Fiction
The day Rhoda Middleton opens a letter from another woman, she becomes convinced her husband, Peter, is having an affair. But when Rhoda tracks the mysterious woman down, she discovers she is not Peter’s lover after all, but the wife of his best friend, Archie Foster. There is only one problem – Rhoda has never even heard of Archie Foster.
Devastated by this betrayal of trust, Rhoda tries to find out why Peter has kept this friendship a secret for so long. Her search leads her back to 1945, but as she gradually uncovers Peter’s wartime experiences she must wrestle with painful memories of her own. For Rhoda too cannot escape the ghosts of the past.
Taking us on a journey from the atmospheric filming of Brief Encounter, to the extraordinary Great March of prisoners of war through snow-bound Germany, PAST ENCOUNTERS explores themes of friendship, hope, and how in the end, it is the small things that enable love to survive.
Includes bonus material for reading groups.
So What Did I Think About The Story?
WWII seems to be a hot topic in novels nowadays and I am one of those readers that eats it up! There is just something about the horror and sacrifice intermingled with the determination, bravery and sheer will to not only survive but to come out the other side stronger than ever that gets me every time. Most of these stories seem to take the reader to the frontlines of the battles or into the homes of those left behind to pine for loved ones fighting. Brief Encounters, however, is the first I have read that gives us an inside look at what it was like for British soldiers forced to work for the Germans in prisoner of war camps as well as the complicated emotions of someone left behind who is ready for her life to begin even while those around her expect her to put her life on hold for a man she barely knows. These varied topics really pulled me into Brief Encounters and kept me turning the pages to find out how the story would unfold.
The story goes back and forth between 1955, when Rhoda Middleton discovers her husband Peter has been hiding an entire part of his life from her since he returned from the war, and the late 1930s through 1945 when Rhoda and Peter meet, go through a quick courtship and Peter enlists and goes off to become a driver and finds himself a prisoner of war . Mostly alternating between Peter's and Rhoda's points of view, the reader gets to see first hand the struggles both of them go through during the war and what they hide from each other when Peter returns, leading to the marriage difficulties they are facing in 1955.
When we first meet Peter and Rhoda in 1955, their marriage of ten years seems to be a complete shame with no real relationship, either physical or emotional, and with both of them just going through the motions of everyday life. It isn't until Rhoda finds a letter from a woman named Helen and she thinks Peter is having an affair that she finally learns how little she knows about her husband's past and what he went through while he was in a prisoner of war camp. As she builds a friendship with Helen, the wife of a man Peter survived the camp with, she begins to better understand the man she's married to and how her secrets have served to put a wedge between them as much as his. It is only with being honest with each other and letting their guards down that they might stand a chance at a happy life together.
The most captivating part of this twisting story for me was Peter's time in the camp. Davina Blake does an exceptional job of plopping the reader into the camp and making them feel, hear, see what these prisoners had to go through. The descriptions of what would go through their minds and what they experienced really helped not only to immerse me in the action but to somewhat explain why Peter becomes this different man when he goes home. Watching Peter and his fellow prisoners not only try to survive but retain some humanity was inspiring and I won't soon forget their stories.
While Rhoda's side of the story is less dramatic and attention-grabbing I did enjoy seeing her struggle against what she believed was expected of her as a "fiancée" (although you can barely call Peter her fiancée while he is serving as he asked her so abruptly before leaving for the war) and what her heart was telling her she wanted out of life. I couldn't help but feel for her, left at home with a less than perfect family life, always expected to find something useful to do with every second she had to spare, and wanting nothing more than to live a little as any red-blooded young woman in her early twenties would want to do. I don't want to give too much away regarding the secret she has kept hidden from Peter but it is quite bittersweet and even when I finished the story I couldn't help but feel that she never really got what she wanted out of life.
Brief Encounters is a long but enticing story of the endurance of the human spirit, the hunger for love and appreciation and how secrets can fester and tear people away from each other. I only wish that the author had included an author's note at the back of the book that explained more about the real Great March of prisoners of war (something I knew nothing about) and maybe more facts regarding the loses sustained during the war (and I know I could just look this up online but I always enjoy turning that last page and finding that information ready to drive home the reality of what people such as the ones found in the book actually experienced). I highly recommend this to any lover of WWII history!
So What Did I Think About The Cover?
I think its very pretty and I like the idea of the misty, grey man and background being the past that Rhoda is trying to forget.
My Rating: 4.0/5.0
Thank you to Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of Past Encounters in exchange for an honest review! Make sure to continue below for more information about the book, the author and the rest of the blog tour.
Praise for Past Encounters
“Her characters are so real that they linger in the mind long after the book is back on the shelf. Highly Recommended!” – The Historical Novels Review
Buy The Book
About the Author
Davina Blake used to be a set and costume designer for theatre and TV, during which time she developed a love of research which fueled her passion for the past. She holds an MA in Creative
Writing from Lancaster University and also writes successful seventeenth century historicals under the pen name Deborah Swift. ‘Her characters are so real that they linger in the mind long after the book is back on the shelf. Highly recommended.’ The Historical Novels Review From Davina: ‘I was inspired to write ‘Past Encounters’ because I live close to the railway station where the iconic ‘Brief Encounter’ was filmed in 1945. I have often used the refreshment room that featured in the film when waiting for a train. I love a good cup of tea, preferably accompanied by a chocolate brownie!’
For more information visit Davina Blake’s website and blog. You can also find her on Twitter.
Past Encounters Blog Tour Schedule
Saturday, November 15
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Sunday, November 16
Review at Library Educated
Monday, November 17
Review at Dianne Ascroft Blog
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, November 18
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book!
Wednesday, November 19
Review at Just One More Chapter
Thursday, November 20
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Friday, November 21
Review & Interview at Bookish
Saturday, November 22
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Monday, November 24
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, November 25
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, November 26
Review at Book Nerd
Thursday, November 27
Interview at The Maiden’s Court
Saturday, November 29
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Monday, December 1
Review at Layered Pages
Review & Interview at Casual Readers
Tuesday, December 2
Review at My Reader’s Block
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Wednesday, December 3
Review at The Worm Hole
Review at Diary of an Eccentric
Thursday, December 4
Review at Beth’s Book Reviews
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry
Friday, December 5
Review at Bibliophilia, Please
Saturday, December 6
Review at Unshelfish
Review at Historical Tapestry