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January 06, 2013


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Melissa Mc

What a fun readalong! I've been tempted to buy this book for weeks -
I should have followed my gut and bought it so I could participate!

Diane (bookchickdi)

One of the first things that struck me about this book is that it is a great fiction read for women as well as men. There are the relationships and love stories that will appeal to women and the entire Book Two is all about the actual fighting itself. I think that a book club with men and women could have a terrific discussion.

I live with three men- my husband and two sons- and so I like reading about men and what makes them tick, and this book really appealed to that part of me.

I also liked Martin's diary entires, it deepened the story for me getting his personal observations from his distinctly American point of view.

Just like we are seeing the life of Downton Abbey changing because of the war, it was interesting to see how dramatically the class system also became a casualty of war in the novel. Ivy and Ross left their servant positions to become a nurse and engineer. The war gave them opportunities they never would have had otherwise. The same is true for Alexandra, who may be the most changed character in the book. (I liken her to Sybil's journey in Downton) I hope we see more of Alex in future books.

When the girls with the white feathers showed up, I immediately recognized them from Maisie Dobbs. I knew what they were up to right away.

It is interesting that Rock wrote the novel just after Vietnam because one of the themes that struck me is just how war is the same no matter when or why it is fought. Young men die fighting for a piece of land that next week is lost and in the end makes no difference. It reinforces how war should always be a last resort.

I raced through The Passing Bells and loved it! I will post my full review this week on


I really enjoyed this book! I posted my review on my blog:


1) I've said this several times since I picked it up, but The Passing Bells is Downton Abbey on the page. I feel like it highlighted the breakdown of the class system a lot more than the Maisie Dobbs and the Bess Crawford series (although it's definitely a part of Maisie's world), and seeing that play out was extremely interesting to me.

2) I think I answered this partly in the previous question, but I thought Rock did an incredible job of depicting the role reversals wrought by the war, particularly because he had such great character foils. When you see someone like Lord Greville desperately holding on to the old traditions even as his son and daughter are making decisions for themselves and his own chauffeur goes to work for Rolls Royce, it really makes the changes stand out.

3) I think perhaps to further humanize the story and to give a different perspective of both British society and the war. Martin is not a completely objective observer, but he still sees things as an outsider, and that definitely added something to the story. He also has a Jane Eyre-like quality about him that lets him serve as a guide of sorts. He's one of the characters I took into my heart.

4) For me, having Brooke in the novel really brought home the "lost generation" aspect of WWI and that all of these bright young men were cut down in their prime.

5) I'm kind of ambivalent towards both of them, actually. I feel like to say that Lydia is a total cow and Alex is completely redeemed would be too pat. I want to see how they develop in the next book.

6) I kind of fell in love with Fenton, and his development was most fun to watch. I really liked Jacob as well--his honesty was refreshing. My view of Charles changed quite a bit, because I didn't feel too much for him at the outset, but that all changed as he came into his own and stood up to his wife and family and then when he returned from the war with shell shock. The final scene with him and William broke my heart.

7) I think that Rock's experiences with war definitely influenced The Passing Bells. Vietnam also saw the loss of a generation of bright young men, and many who returned were not whole. Not to mention the anti-war protests and draft dodgers that are mirrored in Jacob.

8) No new terms for me, but I am an Anglophile. :-)


Ohh this sounds good. I should definitely pick up The Passing Bells and would love to read Circles of Time.

Sandra @ Fresh Ink Books

I'd love to have a copy of there is still one available. Thank you.


I finally finished the Passing Bells today. I read it sporadically and so it took me a while to fall into the characters. It definitely seemed to me that Rock was passing more contemporary views of the war as views of those during WWI, but who am I to say - I wasn't there. I did read the first Maisie Dobbs, which I loved (thank you for the rec), and felt it gave a more in depth feel of nursing than this one did, although the chapter in which Alex goes to France did a good job of putting you in the scene. I really liked the fact that Martin speculated on Charles' sang froid and found out later he was just holding it all in. Hate to admit that I had to look up the feather thing and didn't know the reason for Armistice Day, but I'm glad I do now. I did read all of the Betsy books, but that was in elementary school! I may have to read them again - they were good :) I also thought the women were drawn a little too stereotypically: the mother and wife who didn't want to send their loved one to war; the maid and aristrocrat who want more (think Edith and Daisy) - and Lydia (another mention) of the femme fatale who gets what she wants with her beauty and wiles. Thank you for all of the thoughtful questions, and for recommending this book!

Diane (bookchickdi)

My review of The Passing Bells is in my monthly Book Report column in the Citizen. (Spoiler: I loved it!)

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