Book review: The Lost Soldier - Diney Costeloe
This book was previously published as The Ashgrove.
In 1921, eight ash trees were planted in the Dorset village of Charlton Ambrose as a timeless memorial to the men killed in World War One. Overnight a ninth appeared, marked only as for 'the unknown soldier'.
But now the village's ashgrove is under threat from developers.
Rachel Elliot, a local reporter, sets out to save the memorial and solve the mystery of the ninth tree. In so doing, she uncovers the story of Tom Carter and Molly Day: two young people thrown together by the war, their love for each other, their fears for the present and their hopes for the future. Embroiled in events beyond their control, Tom and Molly have to face up to the harsh realities of the continuing war, the injustices it allows and the sacrifices it demands.
The Lost Soldier is a beautiful read.
The poppies and quiet, romantic image on the cover fit the book perfectly. This mystery about the ninth ash tree and Rachel's quest to find out the story behind it really held me in its grip from the start. I loved Rachel's approach to the town's history and when the book switched to Molly's story after a while, I got even more lost into this novel.
It's an incredibly moving and captivating account of a brave girl, joining in the war effort but (almost) forgotten by history. Molly has seen and experienced some horrible things, but she still has so much determination and courage - it's inspiring.
I really enjoyed how this story told the story of a woman facing the horrors of war, instead of the often told tale of the "brave young men".
Because the book starts out with present-day Rachel, along with whom we get to discover the story of Molly by diving into the past, The Lost Soldier made for a layered account of this small piece of history in the chaos and ruins caused by WWI.
I do regret how Molly and Tom's story ended. It's a very real and hard reality, of course, and it's a part of that history that has to be told as well.
Although war and happy endings usually don't fit into the same tale, Diney Costeloe still found a way to make this into a truly beautiful read. Her writing and characters did not leave me devastated, despite the story of war. They moved me and really made me appreciate love and life. They make me think of all the stories - both beautiful and tragic - behind those black and white pictures of men and women during the war, soldiers and nurses, parents and children.
I enjoyed reading this insightful and intimate war story about love, friendship, duty, faith and family.