Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, November 07, 2014

The Great War: Vol 1, Chapter 1-3

The third installment of The Great War: Things Fall Apart is up now:

It was a ten minute walk from the Mertens shop to the the Perreau house, but the contrast between the buildings made the distance between them seem much wider. The Rue des Remparts was a street of shops and row houses. Both the Mertens shop window and the green painted door which led into the attached house fronted directly on the sidewalk, with the small garden behind the building, invisible from the street. Only a narrow passage separated the building which contained both shop and house from the next building, which contained Jobart’s pork butcher shop and Boucher’s grocery, each with living quarters above on the second and third floors.

The Perreau house on the Rue des Ragons stood well back from the road, surrounded by a high wrought iron fence, terraced lawns, and formal flower beds. Philomene had left home early, knowing that Madame Perreau was a believer in punctuality. When she reached the gate, decorated with curling iron vines ending in gilded fruits and flowers, she looked down at the watch pinned to her blouse and saw that it was seven minutes before ten o’clock. Rather than approach the house early she walked slowly along the sidewalk outside the fence, looking up at the gardens and the tall grey stone house that rose above them and trying to imagine tables spread out on both sides of the winding stone path that lead up to the house with a crowd of guests, each paying ten francs for the privilege of enjoying refreshments and conversation in support of the new religious school.

Chateau Ducloux boasted two families that could be described as wealthy, of which the Perreaus were unquestionably the older and more respectable of the two. They were not aristocracy. They would have denied the term even had it been applied to them. Georges Perreau had risen to prominence in the town during the reign of the first Napoleon, turning a small inheritance, a government contract for the manufacture of boots, and a sharp instinct for negotiation into a substantial fortune which he spent in buying up landholdings small and large....

[read the whole thing]


bearing said...

I'm impressed by your attention to feminine details -- better than what I expect from a sociopolitical-military history, if you know what I mean.

"Iron parasol" -- love that. The gloves detail, too.

Darwin said...


I'm really enjoying writing Philomene and also Natalie (whom you'll meet in a couple weeks.) One of the things that I wanted to do was encompass a wider experience of the war, not a strictly masculine or battlefield one.

Though as things have developed, I've wondered at times if some readers will find the opening chapters too family focused for something billed as being about a world war. We shall see.

mandamum said...

I think, as a mother at home watching current events and wondering about the signs of the times, that it's interesting to see the domestic level living out against the global upheaval. *We* know what's coming on *their* global stage... but they don't have 20/20 sight yet, and we can't know what 100yrs from now will know about our time.

Darwin said...


I'm glad that seems to be working.

One of the things I really wanted to do was to build the sense of normality which the war disrupted -- and of course normality is not "nothing happening here", but rather a the whole set of conflicts and concerns that normally make up our whole world. I wanted the war to seem to disrupt lives that were already busy, rather than projecting the idea that there was nothing going on until the war came.

The downside of this is that it means there's a lot to get through before the actual war comes. So I'm hoping that readers find that interesting rather than thinking, "When are we going to get going here?"