Wednesday, October 31, 2007
This Time of Dying
This Time of Dying by Reina James is the tale of ordinary people living in extraordinary times. The story tales place in London during the Fall of 1918 - a time of war and of the Spanish Flu and is told primarily from the points of view of two people. Allen Thompson is a lady. She is a widow, a schoolteacher, a caregiver for her invalid sister and a woman who is ahead of her time. She is unusually kind to her maid and has a burgeoning friendship with a man below her station. Henry Speake is an undertaker whose first love is music and playing the piano. He sees the effects of the epidemic firsthand and reads a letter left behind by a victim which gives him insight as to how serious this flu may be.
This novel describes Allen and Henry's everyday activities. Her school closes and she visits the sick with her friend. She deals with her sister who is in a state of decline. Henry takes care of more and more of the victims, running out of lumber for coffins and time to arrange burials. Each day Allen and Henry meet and talk and get to know one another and the people around them tell them more and more how inappropriate their relationship is. I found it interesting the extent to which Henry's family and coworkers were upset with him over his relationship with Allen. They felt she was 'ruining' him which I wouldn't have expected.
Despite the dramatic subject matter, I found this to be a very quiet book. I found myself rooting for this disparate pair and hoped they would not be parted by the expectations of society. I enjoyed this book, though I never felt a very strong connection to it. That puts it in more of a 'liked it' than 'loved it' category for me and I'm glad I decided to read this.