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Woodruff's novel is about the fortunes of an Oxford University rowing eight, leading up to and during the Second World War. 1938: the Arnold College crew are a varied bunch, united only by the love of their sport and a sense that theirs is a generation which may have to fight for king and country. There's Charley Bradbury, a Scottish Communist and pacifist; David Evans, a chorister and super-boffin; Roger Blundell a witty dandy;Tony Markham, heir to a substantial estate and brother to four Mitford-type sisters; Pat Riley, charming somewhat mysterious Irishman; Alex Haverfield, handsome and a natural leader; Max Elsfield a dangerous self-destructive drinker and Bill Clark a naval cadet. As the war progresses they are gradually whittled away. Some, like Max Elsfield and David Evans, have been unhappy in love and have brought about their own destruction through reckless assaults on the enemy. Others like Charley Bradbury have had the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time - torpedoed on a passenger vessel from Russia. Ultimately this - like the Nab End stories - is a book about common humanity: the importance of virtues such as faith, loyalty and self-sacrifice.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349116891
ISBN-10: 034911689X
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 126mm x 23mm)
Pages: 368
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 4-Dec-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

UK Kirkus Review » This is a novel the likes of which you will seldom se again, as it's the product of a very specific time in the history and culture of Britain. The author, now 87, is already known as a historian, and for the Road to Nab End and Beyond Nab End, stories about his upbringing in a small northern town in the 1920s, his migration to London and his subsequent admission to the Catholic Workers College in Oxford. This novel too is more social history than imaginative fiction. It tells the story of a group of male friends, the rowing eight at an Oxford college, at the beginning of the Second World War. The narrative is remembered by the only survivor, the former cox, who sees a photograph of the youthful crew sixty years later. The characters represent stereotypes of the era - the communist Scotsman, the mathematical genius, the landed aristocrat, the charming and feckless Irishman, the handsome, courageous leader who was the crew's stroke. The narrative is equally predictable, beginning with the crew celebrating a win, then following each of the characters through the course of the war. The cox marries a German woman and brings her back to England. The rest, on land, sea or in the air, die. The novel will appeal to readers who have a taste for nostalgia, or who enjoy reading how particular age felt to those who lived through it. Curiously, it might also attract those who are surfeited by vulgarity, sex, violence and shopping, as it has a naive and martial setting, the author is more interested in domestic detail than in gruelling accounts of bloody and desperate actions. Don't buy this is you're allergic to words like 'God', 'honour' and 'bravery' used in a non-ironic sense. (Kirkus UK)


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Author Biography - William Woodruff

From his birth in 1916 until he ran away to London, William Woodruff lived in the heart of Blackburn's weaving community. He eventually went to Oxford University and lived in Florida for over forty years. He died in 2008.

Books By Author William Woodruff

Road to Nab End by William Woodruff

Road to Nab End

Paperback, September 2011
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Nab End and Beyond by William Woodruff

Nab End and Beyond

Paperback, December 2006
$25.19
Concise History of the Modern World by William Woodruff

A Concise History of the Modern World

Paperback, November 2005
$23.71
Vessel of Sadness by William Woodruff

Vessel of Sadness

Paperback, November 2004
$18.24