We’ve Come to Take You Home is a poignant read about family, history, war and reconnecting with your past to form your future. I had no idea of what to expect when I started to read this debut novel. Was it a love story? An historical read? The genre I find very hard to define, even now once I have read it, but I loved this book for its ghostly themes of love and the past, and strong female characters who both eloquently told their stories.
We’ve Come to Take You Home tells the story of two women, four generations apart. Although the stories appear to be separate, as I progressed through the book I realised that the two stories were linked in some way. Jess is living through the hardship of the First World War. Her father has been recently deployed and she needs to help support her mother and new baby brother. The depictions of war are harrowing and brutally honest. When Jess is forced to move to London to work as a maid of all jobs, my heart ached for her. She was thankful for a roof over her head and food in her belly, but at what cost? Was she truly living life?
We also read Sam’s story, which is just as moving as Jess’s, although in an entirely different way, there are similarities to what they are both going through. They are both young, they are having to adjust to life without a father, and they are both mature beyond their years. She lives in the present day with her mother and pilot dad. She has always seen things, people, that are not really there, and as we read her story , she shares with us the fact that she sees images of war. She sees war nurses attending the sick, the bombed out fields and the sick and dying soldiers. This happens to her without warning, she is simply sucked back in time, living via another person. This is obviously terrifying, but she keeps what she believes are visions to herself, as who would believe her? She has no idea why she sees such images, and neither do we.
This is such a clever story, and on paper you would think it could not possibly work. But, it does. Through both Sam and Jess we learn about what it must have been like for a normal, working class family to live through the hardship of war. Although this is the primary story, we also have Sam’s struggle, in her trying to reunite her broken family. Her father is a pilot, and on the day that he leaves the family home, he is involved in an accident that leaves him in a coma. Sam has to deal with her father’s critical condition, as well as having to learn to cope with the evolving relationship with her mother.
This is a deeply moving book about the horrors of war, about family and of the important bond between father and daughter. It is beautifully written and the ending couldn’t have happened any other way. I highly recommend this novel and look forward to reading more work by Susan Gandar