If you love historical dramas and romances set in the time of war, you may love Genevieve Graham’s Tides of Honour. It begins in 1917 Nova Scotia, where Private Daniel Baker returns home having lost a leg in the First World War. Through flashbacks, we see how he met artist Audrey Poulin while stationed in France and how both fell in love. Though Daniel gallantly offers to let her go and find someone without such a debilitating injury, Audrey nevertheless professes her continuing love for him, and moves to Halifax to be his wife.
The novel starts off a bit slow. There are poignant moments, particularly where Daniel encounters the parents of soldiers who’ve died in the war, and the pain they feel upon seeing each other — Daniel, with the guilt of surviving, and the parents with the reminder of the son they’d lost. But otherwise, I found the beginning, with its buildup of the romance between Daniel and Audrey, to be plodding.
After marriage is when the conflict really starts, particularly when Audrey’s artistic career shows promise of taking off and Daniel is stuck underemployed and barely managing with his injury. Graham keeps the story very much a product of its time and place, and while I understand the faithfulness to historical accuracy, a lot was grating for a contemporary reader to witness. In particular, Daniel’s whole alpha male pride thing really ticked me off. He’s the man of the house, he should be the breadwinner, he should be the one to support the family, etc. Historically accurate, perhaps, but I didn’t blame Audrey for feeling stifled.
Audrey is the best part of this novel. I love how her talent helped her gain some degree of financial independence, and I love her interest in the suffragette movement. I only wish her involvement with the suffragettes was explored a bit more, and I would have loved an entire novel from her perspective.
Both their worlds get turned upside down with the Halifax Explosion of 1917. I wasn’t familiar with that bit of Canadian history, but Graham does a great job of showing the tragic effects on individual lives. I love how it affected Daniel, in particular, and helped him go beyond himself and his initial ideas of how his life should have turned out. It’s a poignant reminder that people’s stories continue even after something as shattering as surviving a war.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.