by R. V. Bayley
Adelaide’s determination to shake off her grim childhood sees her making an unashamed beeline for widower John Brunner. It is the summer of 1939 in Wellington and the pair are married before war is declared. Adelaide’s desolation when John enlists and sails for Egypt is only relieved by his letters.
Barefoot unfolds as 2 stories: Adelaide’s loneliness, relieved and yet sharpened by John’s letters, and the kindness of strangers who draw her into their war-effort circle, is contrasted by the vivid word-pictures so skillfully drawn half a world away by John’s letters. A little disconcertingly at first, these are written in the second person rather than the first person, as if John is viewing himself from a distance as he writes. However, the letters are such a vivid account of the soldiers’ training camps in Egypt that the reader is drawn into camp life: the heat, sand and flies, the comradeship and pranks, the longing for- and the dread of action.
John’s letters are such a descriptive account of a world that Adelaide could never have imagined that she struggles to imagine how John can be interested in the mundane events in her own life and yet, for the soldier, letters from home are a lifeline to normality.
One day a drawing of a fishing fly flutters out of a letter from John. Like an omen, it is a link to how this moving, love-filled novel will end, months after John’s letters have stopped coming.
Bayley’s research for Barefoot gained her access to Second World War soldiers’ letters and diaries and those heart-breaking telegrams that every woman at home dreaded. She has spun them into a debut novel which honours those men and their families, and which fully justifies the support the author received from NZ Society of Authors Inc and Creative New Zealand.
Author: R.V. Bayley
Publisher: Eden St Press