Monday, 26 August 2013

Valentine Grey by Sandi Toksvig

I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked this book up, certainly not the compelling and compassionately told story that I found.
In some ways this is a book about rejecting society's expectations and choosing your own destiny, with Valentine choosing to reject the staid, controlled society of Victorian women to go to war as a man, and her cousin Reggie choosing to explore the apparently liberating homosexual underworld of Victorian London.  Neither quite gets what they expect, and the result is the ruin of one and the making of the other.  A story of self-discovery, of loss, of friendship, of war, of humanity and inhumanity.
The settings, both in London and in South Africa, are evocatively described, rich in detail.  The plot unfolds with honesty and increasing intensity, not shying from the brutality and inhumanity of war or the disfunction of forbidden love.  At times deeply disturbing, it is a story about the human spirit and well worth the struggle.

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