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Far from Home by T A Williams #Review #BeneathItalianSkiesBook3

  As ever, I am delighted to feature another romance by T A Williams , set in beautiful Italy. Far from Home was published by Canelo on May 9th. The secrets of the past will unlock her future… Working in the fast-paced foreign exchange market in Canary Wharf, Amy never expected her job to drive her to collapse. With her doctor advising she take a month off work, when Amy receives a solicitor’s letter informing her of a surprise inheritance in Italy, the timing couldn’t be more perfect. But who on earth has left her a house in the sleepy Tuscan hills? As she gets to know the town and its inhabitants, Amy discovers more about the mysterious man who named her in his will. Shocking family secrets come to light, leaving Amy questioning the life she knew. The town of Sant’Antonio holds more than just secrets. Here, Amy meets Adam, a renowned TV journalist whose documentaries take him to dangerous places. But as their attraction grows, so do Amy’s worries. Her life is in England,

From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron #Extract #Giveaway #ImperialWarMuseum #WartimeClassics

In September 2019, to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, Imperial War Museum will launch a wonderful new series with four novels from their archives all set during the Second World War – Imperial War Museums Wartime Classics.

Today, I have an extract from the first of these, Alexander Baron's From the City, From the Plough. I also have a great Giveaway with the opportunity for you to win a print copy of the book (UK only). Details on how to enter are at the foot of this post. First, here's a little about the novel: 

The story of soldiers of the Fifth Battalion, the Wessex Regiment, in the run up to and aftermath of D-Day. Although fictional, it comes directly out of the author's own experience and is regarded as one of the most accurate and unsentimental portrayals of the ordinary soldier's life anywhere in fiction. First published in 1948, there have been enthusiastic endorsements from soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, confirming Baron's uncanny knack of capturing the soldier's experience. 

Extract- Introduction

War literature is often associated with the First World War, with an explosion of the genre in the late 1920s. Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front was a bestseller and later made into a Hollywood film, while generations of schoolchildren have grown up on a diet of the poetry of Wilfred Owen and the words of Siegfried Sassoon.
    Yet the novels of the Second World War – or certainly those written by individuals who had first-hand experience of that war – are often forgotten. Alexander Baron’s From the City, From the Plough is one of the most impressive from both conflicts and is written from the perspective of the ordinary soldier. The book proved popular on publication and has remained admired by commentators and historians ever since. It depicts a fictional infantry battalion training in England, before going on to fight in the D-Day landings and the ensuing Normandy campaign. The novel’s great strength is its unflinching realism; coupled with Baron’s skilful economy of language and the unsentimental way such devastating events are portrayed. This lends the work a huge emotional power.

Alexander Baron

    Alexander Baron joined the Pioneer Corps in 1940, and eventually transferred to the infantry in late 1944, having served in Italy and France. It is this experience on which the novel is based. In his unpublished memoir, the author explains how, ‘throughout the book, as the story of the battalion develops, I have tried to keep in the reader’s mind the background – the lovely summer of 1944, which made the period of training and waiting seem in some ways so unreal and which in Normandy provided such a contrast to the actual fighting’. Thus the first half of From the City, From the Plough, as the battalion awaits the order to move, beautifully evokes the long periods of boredom inherent in both training and soldiering itself. Baron writes, ‘the soldier lives a drama: he never has the time to perceive it. His life, even in battle, is a succession of chores’. He demonstrates the humour and pathos of the soldier, as well as the hierarchy and structure of the battalion – both official and unofficial – and just how important this is. Very early on, the reader learns that ‘Charlie Venable [is] the man who matter[s] in this hut’; while the ‘Doggy Boys’ of Chapter Six ‘lacked nothing. In winter, when the rest of the men had four blankets each, every Doggy Boy had six’. Baron’s writing lays bare the realities of this group of men, living in such close quarters. Jokes and banter abound. Yet perhaps even more important, and touching, are the quiet scenes of almost tenderness which we are party to – notable is Charlie Venable’s treatment of the young Alfie Bradley, overheard by Lance-Corporal Feather: ‘Been awake all the time, Charlie. Charlie, you know what you are? You’re a gentleman.’ ‘Dear, oh dear,’ sighed Charlie, ‘I do get called some names. Good night, Corp.’

* * *

The D-Day landings of 6 June 1944 play a huge role in the national memory of Britain, Canada and the United States. There were five main amphibious landings spanning a distance of almost 55 miles. To the west of Bayeaux were the three beaches of Gold, Juno and Sword where the British and Canadians landed, with the Americans to the east landing at Omaha and Utah. Allied casualties for the D-Day landings were c. 10,000, with 4,500 Allied soldiers confirmed dead. Despite such devastating losses, the landings were successful, and 156,000 allied troops were ashore by the end of the day. Alexander Baron was one of these men. His Pioneer company landed in one of the earliest waves, immediately after the first assault, and Baron witnessed (though didn’t participate in) the fiercest fighting first-hand. Later, he wrote, ‘in two of my novels there are accounts of the landing in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. These are based on my memories but I read them today as if they were somebody else’s story’.

Feature films of D-Day such as The Longest Day (1962) and Saving Private Ryan (1998) remain popular. Baron himself was critical of war films as he thought they lacked realism. What his novel brings, that perhaps films cannot quite capture, is this realism of the war experience. After all, Baron was there.

There was a tangle of wire ahead, with German mine
warnings poking up everywhere and a few British dead lying
with their faces in the sand. They followed the tape along a
path torn through the wire and came on to a narrow track
running laterally. In front of them now were gentle, dreary
dunes rising from pools and runnels of water, with grass
growing scantily on their upper flanks. On each side of them
sappers were rooting up mines as hastily as potatoes, and a
little away to the right a beach dressing station had just been
established, with a row of loaded stretchers waiting on one
side and a row of corpses laid out on the other, each a still
mound under a grey blanket, with big boots protruding at the
end. Some pioneers were trying to dig in along the far side of
the road, in the wet sand.

* * *

The second half of the novel focuses on the battalion’s push into Normandy, with the final, attritional scenes of From the City, From the Plough based on the attack on Mont Pincon by the 5th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, who were almost wiped out in the action. Baron had heard about the battle and after the war, he wrote:

It was the climax I needed for my novel. The 5th Wilts
became the 5th Wessex. The story leading up to this climax
would be a mosaic of my own experiences. 

From the City, From the Plough was originally called The Fifth Battalion after the fictional 5th Battalion, the Wessex Regiment, then The Englishmen, followed by A Summer’s Harvest. The final title evokes the men’s differing origins, with both urban and rural backgrounds. Baron started writing the book during the second half of 1946 and finished it the following year. He put the manuscript away in a drawer until his friends persuaded him to send it to a publisher. The first print run of 3,000 copies sold out before publication, with From the City, From the Plough achieving both popular success and critical acclaim. Over its lifetime, the book sold in excess of one million copies. With this new edition of such an authentic and moving novel, we can only hope to reach a readership of many, many more.


About the Imperial War Museums Wartime Classics series
In September this year, to coincide with the 80th Anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, the IWM will publish the first four titles of what they hope to be a long and successful fiction series - the Imperial War Museum Wartime Classics.

From The City, From The Plough by Alexander Baron
Trial By Battle by David Piper
Plenty Under The Counter by Kathleen Hewitt 
Eight Hours From England by Anthony Quayle
Originally published to considerable acclaim, these four titles were written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print.  Each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the conflict.  They all capture the awful absurdity of war and the trauma and chaos of battle as well as some of the fierce loyalties and black humour that can emerge in extraordinary circumstances.  Living through a time of great upheaval, as we are today, each wartime story brings the reality of war alive in a vivid and profoundly moving way and is a timely reminder of what the previous generations experienced. 

 The remarkable IWM Library has an outstanding literary collection and was an integral part of Imperial War Museums from its very beginnings.  Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) searched the library collection to come up with these four launch titles, all of which deserve a new and wider audience.   He has written an introduction to each novel that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background and says, ‘Researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM.  It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.

Each story speaks strongly to IWM’s remit to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand.  They cover diverse fronts and topics – preparations for D-Day and the advance into Normandy; the war in Malaya; London during the Blitz and SOE operations in occupied Europe and each author – three men and a woman – all have fascinating back stories. These are Second World War novels about the truth of war written by those who were actually there.

Comments so far:

“If poetry was the supreme literary form of the First World War then, as if in riposte, in the Second World War, the English novel came of age.  This wonderful series is an exemplary reminder of that fact.  Great novels were written about the Second World War and we should not forget them.”                                                                  WILLIAM BOYD

‘It’s wonderful to see these four books given a new lease of life because all of them are classic novels from the Second World War written by those who were there, experienced the fear, anguish, pain and excitement first-hand and whose writings really do shine an incredibly vivid light onto what it was like to live and fight through that terrible conflict.’    JAMES HOLLAND, Historian, author and TV Presenter

‘The Imperial War Museum has performed a valuable public service by reissuing these four absolutely superb novels covering four very different aspects of the Second World War. '                                                                                 ANDREW ROBERTS
Book link: Amazon UK 

Thanks to the IWM and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for a place on the tour.

Follow the rest of the tour!


Giveaway (UK only)


To win a paperback copy of From the City, From the Plough,  just Follow and Retweet the pinned Tweet at @bookslifethings.

 Closing Date September 8th 2019 and there is one winner.

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries only.  The winner will be selected at random via Tweetdraw from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.


  1. Thank you SO MUCH for this blog tour support Pam x


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