I’d heard of the Battle of Jutland, but that’s it. No idea of who, when or where. Now I know, thanks to The Redeemed, third in Tim Pear’s West Country Trilogy. I also found out about the sinking of captured German battleships afterwards at Scapa Flow off the north coast of Scotland. That I’d never heard of, nor the later salvage operations. All these events are part of Pear’s story and expanded upon in his author’s notes. And you want to immediately google it.
6,784 British and 3,039 German men died in the 36 hour long Battle of Jutland, May 31 to June 1, 1916, in the North Sea. In Germany, it’s the Battle of Skagerrak. It was a victory for neither side, so both sides claimed it as one. Included in the British death count are 8 Australians and one Canadian. That Canadian was Lieutenant-Engineer Stanley H. de Quetteville, RCN, who was aboard HMS Indefatigable. Among other sources, Pears used stories his grandfather, a survivor, told about the battle.
West County Trilogy by Tim Pears
Although I’ve started here with the final book, I strongly recommend you read them in order. The three are The Horseman (2017), The Wanderers (2018) and The Redeemed (2019). In the first, you enter the world of early 20th century Devon with Leo, the protagonist. He’s an odd child. Through the three books, he grows into an odd man. But what he sees! Or more, how he sees! Big stuff and the tiny minutiae of trees and fields, animals and people. And horses.
I was a bit fearful when reading the jacket descriptions. Horses, farming, life on an English tenant farm and estate – lots of scope for horrific things to happen. But I loved the covers of the books. Such beautiful photographs had to be repaid with reading what was between them.
See the books here on Amazon.ca as a set or individually.
So in The Horseman, I got to know 12 year old Leo and his family, their neighbours and the owners of the estate. It is 1911. Second in the series, The Wanderer, starts a year later, when circumstances have scattered Leo and his family in different directions. We go with Leo, but we also check in with what’s happening on the estate, in the house and the stables. The Redeemed is the last in the trilogy. It begins with the Battle of Jutland and follows Leo as he wends his way home in the post-war years.
I was right to be worried about horrible things happening. They do. They are not minimized but you get past them. They’re counterbalanced somehow by gentle explanations of why. The stuff of people’s lives here is not gentle but is made so, somehow, in the writing. And other worldly. I began thinking it seemed like magical realism. But in a book about the west country of England? Looking at reviews, sure enough, I wasn’t the only person who thought so. Also the word I’ve used about the writing – gentle – is used by many others.
Maybe it’s to do with the horses who are a theme throughout the trilogy. And Leo’s affinity with them. Very real, but also magical and gentle. But it’s not a book about horses. It’s about Leo and the people he grows up with and meets in his journeys. The places and events, large and small. And, always, the horses.
Make sure you’ve got a nice cozy place to read, and lots of time. Once you’ve entered this beautiful world, you’re going to want to stay awhile.