DEVOTION – Louisa Young
Devotion is the third book in the trilogy that began with My Dear I Wanted To Tell You… and was followed by The Heroes Welcome. The novels trace the lives of Riley, Nadine Waveney, Peter Locke and their families through the First World War and its aftermath, and on to the gathering war-clouds of the 1930s. Young has a worthwhile story to tell and tells it with thought-provoking honesty and a lyricism that evokes the period beautifully.
Devotion opens in 1928 and takes up the story of the next generation – those born at the close of the First World War who will be approaching adulthood as the next war begins. We follow Tom Locke as he grows into adolescence and begins to holiday in Rome with an Italian branch of his adopted family. He is captivated by Italy and by Aldo, Susanna, and their children – Vittoria, Stefano and Nenna.
As the years pass by, Tom watches with growing awareness and, ultimately, horror as Mussolini leads the people of Italy towards his shining vision. Aldo is fiercely patriotic and believes in Il Duce’s plans for Italy with such fervour that he refuses to believe his family’s Jewish heritage will, in the eyes of his countrymen, mark them as enemies of the State and put their lives at risk. Wanting to save his beloved cousins from their inevitable fate, Tom risks his own life to make them see the truth of their situation.
Back in London meanwhile, Tom’s father Peter – badly traumatised during the First World War – is finally beginning to rebuild his life and renews his relationship with coloured American jazz singer Mabel Zachary; a talented and independent woman with a secret that will turn Peter’s world upside down. Realising he is falling in love with Mabel, Peter negotiates his way through the engrained attitudes of racial and class bigotry that were endemic in 1930s Britain.
Louisa Young weaves together these two narratives with skill, drawing parallels along the way – some obvious, others not so. She presents a worldview while simultaneously exploring how that world affects the lives of individuals. Devotion is a novel of crumbling ideals and blind faith; of awakenings, acceptance and of love. It exposes the lies we are told by those in power and the lies we tell ourselves in order to live.
Devotion is published by The Borough Press – thanks are due for the ARC.