John Hemingby is a loving husband and father, a musician, teacher, and a man of peace. But when the Great War breaks out, trapping him and his family in France, John can no longer be at peace with himself. He feels strongly he must help his country and his fellow-man - but will not kill. This realistic and dramatic novel tells of the effects of war on one extended family at home in London and abroad after John decides to volunteer for service in the Medical Corps. His beloved artistic daughter, six-year old Dorothy, is deeply distressed at his departure. She recalls in old age her unsettled early life. In the hell of the trenches, John undergoes shattering experiences beyond his imagining: these include crucial encounters with the wounded poet and composer Ivor Gurney, whose brilliant, unstable isolation is to find a profound echo in John's future. While Dorothy grows to a troubled womanhood, the separation and trauma of the times act on the Hemingby family with results that mirror the tragic breaking of two generations in the war and its aftermath. Shocking events and images will linger in your mind long after the last page of this haunting and tragic story.
For further information about Ivor Gurney, his poetry and his music see www.ivorgurney.org.uk and for his friend, Will Harvey, www.fwharveysociety.co.uk
For further information about zeppelin raids and the first house hit in an air raid see http://londonist.com/2012/09/the-hackney-house-that-ended-a-millennium-of-peace.php
“A compelling and moving novel of a family caught up in, and partly destroyed by, the First World War and its aftermath. Impeccably researched and sensitively written - and you will not forget it.”
Jude Morgan – author of Passion, A Taste of Sorrow and The Secret Life of William Shakespeare
I couldn’t put it down. You created that fantastic thing which keeps readers glued – anticipation. I cried at the end because of the wonderful storyline, characterisation , sentiment, description – I could go on...
MM – Boston
A triumph. I thought I was reading a script for a film it is so vivid. It isn’t anything I will forget very easily. BC – Stamford
A message from the author:
There is another dimension to this story – the music. I actually wrote parts of the story while some of the pieces were playing. I wish there was an accompanying CD to this novel so that you too could experience the same effects. But all the pieces mentioned, including Gurney’s songs and other music, are available on-line for you to explore.
This is a book I won’t forget for all the right reasons. It is beautifully written and carefully researched and when you have read it you will realize the title is perfect.
We often hear of the horrors of the First World War but rarely exactly what these horrors were and even more rarely what effect they had on the men and women who endured them. This book provides much food for thought and has led me to reconsider the character of my own paternal grandfather who served in this war and whose subsequent behaviour caused much anguish.
by Alma Harris
When we first meet the Hemingby family, they are trying to get home from their vacation in France after WWI has broken out. John, the father is a gentle soul, a teacher and musician with a pregnant wife and two children. Despite his familial obligations and a career opportunity, he volunteers to serve, not as a soldier but as a medic. His wife who accepts his decision in a passive agressive manner tries her best to take care of her young family. Not one for shows of affection, she provides everything but love for her children.
John manages fairly well until his team ends up at the Front and they are caught up in an offensive. What he sees and experiences there shatters him and while he stumbles on almost as a "walking wounded", it is when he returns home that the deepest wounds are inflicted. No one, especially his wife and family have time or patience to understand the mental illness that haunts him. He is cast out by those whom he loves and the only one who suffers to have him go is his eldest daughter, Dorothy. The two of them have always shared a deep connection.
John ends up in the workhouse, his health broken. It is quite by chance that he sees a notice of the impending marriage of his daughter who has surmounted many setbacks and challenges in her short life. He is able to give her the only gift he still can deliver on her special day.
This book is well written and filled with pathos and loss. The chapters during the war give one an almost palpable sense of what it must have been like in the trenches. The book also delves into mental illness, including shellshock and bipolar disease. It does so in a compassionate way. It is not, however, an easy read. If you are up for a depressing story but one that tugs on the emotions and makes one think, then this could be a book for you.
by Susan Johnston
5 out of 5 stars
Gripping story bringing to life the hardships suffered in the trenches as a stretcher bearer and the aftermath of war.
by Pauline Kirby
I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Do Not Forget Me Quite is truly one of the more haunting and tragic books I have ever read. More than once I had to put it down and step away just to decompress.
As a kid I was told stories of my grandparent’s love story during WWII. Married just weeks before my Grandpa shipped out, my Grandma worked in a factory and lived in a boarding house until he came home and they started a family. The war only strengthened their love.
While this is set in WWI and not WWII, it is still a story of a war that shook the foundations of civilization. And it is against that backdrop that we meet Hemingby family. John, a loving father and husband, volunteers for the medical corps. His experience breaks him, and when he returns home his family has neither the time nor inclination to understand what happened to him. His story would be nothing like my grandparents.
An outcast by the people who ought to love him most, a shattered man clings to any life he can find. Mentally wounded and alone, he chances upon an announcement of his daughter’s marriage and gives her a gift only a father can.
The chapters about the war are incredibly intense. No two ways around it, it takes you to a dark place. Thats one reason I needed to take the occasional break. After the war it doesn’t get much less intense as the themes of shellshock and bipolar disorder are explored. It has an uncanny resemblance to the struggles our soldiers face coming home today. Despite the decades of evolution in warfare soldiers still come home unable to forget what they have experienced.
It started really, really slow and I almost gave up on it so that will keep it from being a five-star book for me. But if you can handle the intensity of grief and loss, it is a good book to give a shot.
by Kyle Wood
5 out of 5 stars
Worth a read, just sad how people become repeated victims of abuse
by Julie Batty
Do not Foreget Me Quite is a timely reminder of the devastating effects of war on families and on surviving soldiers' minds. Richard has presented WW1 in vivid reality with painful attention to life in the trenches through John's perspective, and on the streets of London through his eldest daughter, Dorothy's recollections of life in the early 20th century.
We may not be sympathetic to the coldness of Em, John's wife struggling to bring up four children alone but her story, together with Perce's, (John's hard-hearted brother) illustrate the lack of sympathy and understanding of guilt and shellshock on soldiers' minds.
This is a beautifully written and well-researched historical record. You will not forget it.
by Barbara Cooper
Do Not Forget Me quite is a literary work of history, of family and conflict. This poignant story, set during the First World War, is different to any other book of its kind. I asked myself why I loved it so much? I think it's because it encapsulates the whole of humanity to the amazing endurance that human beings are capable of in times of crisis.
This is the story of John Hemingby's battle with his conscience when he leaves his family to do, what he believes is, his duty to help in the war effort. A deeply religious man, whose decision has consequences far more reaching than he ever envisaged.
He shows courage in the face of adversity when, as a medic, he administers to the wounded and sick men in the trenches. He meets and befriends the wounded poet and musician, Ivor Gurney.
But, this book is about more than that. It's about the love of a daughter for her father, the struggle of a mother to bring up her children alone when her husband is away. It tells of the human element and bravery of young men who fought in the trenches. Like John, some would have found it difficult to re-establish themselves back into society.
Do Not Forget Me quite is a book you won't be able to forget and will stay with you long after you've read the last page.
by Cathy Mansell
It is midsummer 2014.We are targets in the sights of the machine-gunning media which have recruited historians, royalty, politicians and remote relatives proudly gripping mementoes of their gene-sharers in the Great War. Kitchener-like they demand, "Your Country needs you to remember!" Exploiting the more intimate one-to-one relationship of author to reader, books are more wistful and reflective. Recent professional historians are keen to contradict the old "Oh What a Lovely War" cliche that 1914-1918 was just political incompetence and worthless slaughter rather than a first attempt to overcome rampant German aggression. Complementing their work are the historical novels. Published long before 2014, John Harris's Covenant with Death, Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong and Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy are masterpieces defying others to compete with the.Do Not Forget Me Quite does not deserve to sink unread and unnoticed into the Passchendaele mud which Richard Pike describes as slip which we recognise from pottery classes. it demands to be read for its well woven account of a dysfunctional family, its accurate depiction of medicine and surgery under appalling conditions and of Ivor Gurney, the composer and poet, who provides historical reference. He parallels the roles of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen in Regeneration.
In archive film of the Great War we are often transfixed by the eyes of a single soldier in the trenches who has challenged the camera lens to ignore him. John Hemingby, the central character of the book, grips our attention. He rejects the offer of a housemastership with a safe, comfortable life for his family at his kent public school and volunteers as a stretcher bearer and medical assistant in 1914. His religious faith calls him to serve in a non-combatant role, leaving behind his steady but cold wife, Emma - "she was good at grim silences" - and his two children. His emotional bond to his daughter Dorothy is strongest , forged by his violin which is a leif motif throughout the book. The ver night tha Emma presents him with a new, black academic gown, to replace the greening tobacco curd one, John informs her that he is joining up and that the family will be forced to leave the security of the school.
A great strength is the insight into medicine at the front. Following a crescendo of risk, John moves from base hospitals to casualty clearing stations and then to advanced dressing stations right in the thick of action. He observes that the 17-year old amputee's stump "still glowed a hot pink as if angry at being disturbed". Trench fever, or "shinbone fever"' caused by Bartonella bacteria contracted from lice, lives in these pages. One of his old pupils, Lambert, destined for Oxford, is struck down by the disease:
"I couldn't stand up or walk in a straight line ... hoping the world would stop spinning [I] dropped. Like a stone."
Refusing a commission, Hemingby forms strong relationships with two fellow medics. Hubert Henshaw, in his fifties, is his social equal and a doctor who dispensed with all barriers of rank when they are alone. The other, Sov, is a Devon farm labourer and fellow stretcher bearer. they survive the abuse of the sear gent who views unarmed non-combatants as lesser men, especially if educated like Hemingby. During instruction on gas attacks he is ordered to
"Whip out what you lay-di-dah folk call your hanky ... and u-rin-ate on it. Be safe and stick your whole head in a bucket of piss, just to be sure."
There are frequent switches of scene back to his family back in England, who move through a sequence of temporary refuges and John's guilt is compounded by his desertion of his secure pre-war life. in the hospital at Rouen he encounters a patient who is both a composer and poet, Ivor Gurney. Gurney, in real life, clearly suffered from manic depressive psychosis, now limply called bipolar disorder. There are also strong hints of schizophrenia.Gurney, especially in his low phases, refers to himself in the third person and converses with dead composers. he likes to compose in his head, striding up and down to the annoyance of the nurses who prefer their patients to lie to attention in their crisp beds. Hemingby helps him by both recording and playing his compositions on violin or piano just as Eric Fenby served the blind Frederick Delius. Although Gurney considered himself to be "composer first, poet second" he often found it easier to scribble down lines in the trenches than musical scores. Yearning for his Gloucestershire fields, Gurney writes
"Only the wanderer
Knows England's graces
Or can anew see clear
And who loves Joy as he
That dwells in shadows?
Do not forget me quite
O Severn Meadows."
The Passchendaele mud in 1917 destroys Hemingby. He witnesses the drawing and quartering of his school pupil, Lambert, by a shell and, under fire, sees it as his duty to reassemble the skull, trunk and limbs for burial "like some grotesque jigsaw puzzle." He is then compelled to amputate the arm of Henshaw trapped under a tank and starts to carry him back to safety. His friend, Sov, slips on the duck boards, the stretcher tips over and "Henshaw's body slipped...into the liquid mud, smooth as a burial at sea." Sov too falls in and drowns while Hemingby stands paralysed, unable to respond to his friend's pleading for help. He descends into alcoholism and is discharged from the army medically unfit. Unable to settle down with his family, he becomes a vagrant busker living by his violin. Later, he encounters Gurney in the depths of despair and both, at their lowest ebb, envy the war dead while sharing the burdens of survivor guilt and their warped prisms of perceived cowardice.
"Think of the bliss...they sleep well."
Smells and odours reek from this work and are not forgotten:chlorine gas -"pepper and pineapple; the mustard gas and phosgene mixture -"garlic and horseradish"; Zeppelins which dropped not only bombs but "burning tar"; the stench of unwashed bodies and excrement in the trenches and of burning bloody, purulent bandages and clothing in incinerators. One more for the memory bank: I shall never hear Elgar's Salut D'Amour again without thinking of this book. Do not allow 2015 to arrive before reading it.
by Adrian Crisp
5 out of 5 stars
This is quite simply a masterpiece, in my opinion. It's the story of John Hemingby, who is a teacher, a loving husband and father, and who is a man with a conscience. World War I is altering life for all, and John has to reconcile his patriotic duty with his beliefs. Since he cannot take the life of another person, he joins the Medical Corps, so that he can help save lives, rather than taking them.
The story is told partly by John, and partly by Dorothy, his eldest daughter, who loves her Daddy very much. Unfortunately, the war and its' dreadful aftermath cause irrevocable damage to John and to his family. The poet and composer Ivor Gurney crosses paths with John at numerous stages in his life, and his tormented genius weaves through the story.
I was very moved by this book, the descriptions of life at the front, of the conditions that were endured, of the lives lost and of the lives that would never be the same will stay with me forever. I found the story to be unbearably sad at times - the treatment that John received from his own family upon his return from war was extremely harsh. This book reinforces the fact that those at home had NO idea what went on at the Front, and it just beggars belief that, upon their return, the survivors of the fighting were just expected to 'get on with it', and return to normal. After what they had sern and lived through, there was no 'normal'.
This is a compelling, emotional and fantastic book, which I highly recommend.
by laineyf "widnes"
I was born in Mill Hill, North London and educated at University College School, Hampstead, and afterwards at King’s College, Cambridge where I read Classics.
I followed a career in education, largely devoted to comprehensive schools, finally going back to being Head of English in a comprehensive school in South Nottinghamshire. From there, I took early retirement in order to concentrate on writing.
I lived in the East Midlands most of my working life and have now settled with my partner, Ann, in South Lincolnshire, closer to my ancestral roots.
I have been writing most of my adult life: several early one-act plays which received performance in area drama festivals in London; some poetry and short stories, another two novels, and a variety of short stories for children, often humorous, which I used to effect in the classroom.
I regularly attend a daytime Writers’ Workshop in Leicester, and was a contributor to the Peterborough Writers’ 2010 NAWG winning anthology. I have also recently been a runner up, and short-listed, in competitions for children’s writers, organised by Louise Jordan at the Writers’ Advice Centre. I have attended many writing courses over the years, too numerous to mention here. I have been writing seriously for more than ten years and think of myself first as an author of literary fiction as well as a children’s writer.
Do Not Forget Me Quite is my third novel but the first I think ready to publish. As you might imagine with my background I’m quite a stickler and have had to un-learn many of the things I used to teach. The advantage of writing as a second career is that you need never retire.