Wednesday, 13 January 2010
Eunice Fleet (Tobias)
I mentioned last week that Honno books had kindly sent three of their books for me to look at, and I wrote about two of them. I subsequently read Eunice Fleet by Lily Tobias, which was the book which had initially piqued my interest in Honno Books, and proved to be quite a different book to the other two.
The reason I was so interested in this book was because I wrote my undergraduate dissertation (back in 2005!) on the experiences of two Oxford undergraduate conscientious objectors during the First World War. The conclusion I reached by doing my research was that it was impossible to lump conscientious objectors together into a single mass - each objectors' experience was unique, due to the way that their objection had come about, due to the support (or lack thereof) by their friends and families, and due to their treatment by the authorities which was in no sense uniform. I found it fascinating to explore the stories of two men and gained a huge insight into the sort of perspectives that led to conscientious objection.
Eunice Fleet tells Eunice's story as she prepares to face the Second World War. However, her life has been strongly influenced by her experiences during the previous war, when her life was turned upside down by the fact that her husband, a teacher, decided to make a conscientious objection to fighting in the war. Eunice fails to understand why Vincent feels so strongly, and finds it hard to come to terms with the fact that he would rather go to prison, completely abandoning his family, rather than compromise his beliefs. The book is built around a tragedy that arises from this situation, and to say any more would be to spoil it. But what I do want to say is how fascinating this book is as a piece of social history. Apparently the book builds on personal experiences of Tobias, and reading it feels deeply personal and seems to give a real flavour for a perspective that is often ignored - the feelings and emotions of the friends and families of those who refused to fight.