Past Encountersby Published 30 Jun 2014
From the moment Rhoda Middleton opens one of her husband’s letters and finds it is from another woman, she is convinced he is having an affair. But when Rhoda tracks her down, she discovers the mysterious woman is not his lover after all, but the wife of his best friend, Archie Foster.
There is only one problem - Rhoda has never even heard of Archie Foster.
Devastated by this betrayal of trust, Rhoda tries to find out how and why her husband, Peter, has kept this friendship hidden for so long. Her search leads her back to 1945, but as she gradually uncovers Peter’s wartime secrets she must wrestle with painful memories of her own. For if they are ever to understand each other, Rhoda too must escape the ghosts of the past. Taking us on a journey from the atmospheric filming of Brief Encounter, to the extraordinary Great March of prisoners of war through snow-bound Germany, this is a novel of friendship, hope, and how in the end, it is the small things that enable love to survive.
Includes discussion points for reading groups.
Past Encounters Reviews
During his years in the German POW camp, all Peter wanted was to return to the love of his life. But haunted by ghosts and secrets, their relationship is not what he has imagined it to be. For those who fought and those who remained on the home front, the war didn't end in 1945. Ten years on, they are still fighting for their old lives and loves, for forgetfulness and forgiveness. What they went through will always be with them and they must learn to live with it.
Davina Blake is a master of suspense and paints a realistic picture of a relationship that is disintegrating through bitterness and estrangement. This book is about two people trying to break through a wall of past hurts and misunderstandings. But ultimately it's about healing and the long process of finding one's way to what has once been.
The book ends on a note of hope and forgiveness - the perfect closure for the emotional roller-coaster this story is. Thanks to Davina Blake's meticulous research and attention to detail, Europe at war jumps to life from every page of this beautifully written novel. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and to all those who love books that transport you back in time from the very first page.
To me, a sign of a good book is whether it has made me cry and whether it has left me wanting more. And Past Encounters has certainly done both.
This was not a bad book, though my taste does not run to romantic stories. Hence the rating. What I did enjoy (and why I finished it) is the research the author did on WWII, especially the prison camps for British soldiers, the refugees fleeing west hoping to encounter the Americans and not the Soviets, the conditions of life in a small town In the far north during the war, the making of Brief Encounter, a film I like and have seen many times.
2 Shattered Glass Stars
This book is all over the place. It’s never funny or childish. But it gets caught in a world where you don’t like either character. First you are all about # TeamRhoda then you are mad and turn into #TeamPeter. Then it ends and you are just like “all these characters deserve eachother I hate them all #TeamArchie”
Sounds confusing right?
This book is a historical look at the war as well as a story of post war I wouldn’t say much of the whole thing focused on romance. I love romance. This book needed more romance. The relationship between Rhoda and Peter was mentioned to be rocky.. but I have never met less in love characters in my entire life. I thought they were both selfish and made it hard to love them.
The moment you realize your perfect miserable life is over… you might also discover part of yourself in the shattered glass that remains
However the story of the actual War (Peter and Archie) Seems really well researched. And it really opened my eyes to it all (even if it is fiction it felt real)
Because the only way I would know I’d loved this much was to keep this pain.
I received Past Encounters as part of a Goodreads giveaway.
Peter and Rhoda are a couple in quiet crisis. Married 10 years, Peter is silently haunted by the five years he spent in a prison camp during World War II ten years earlier, while Rhoda feels increasingly alienated from him, a sentiment that is only magnified when she discovers the existence of Helen and her late husband Archie, who was Peter's best friend from his time in the camp. As Rhoda forges a quiet friendship with Helen, unbeknownst to Peter, we learn of Rhoda's and Peter's fates during the war that brought them (and their marriage) to its current state.
Past Encounters is a bittersweet book that haunts you subtly. Nothing shocking or particularly riveting happens. Peter spends a horrific half-decade in a prison camp, but the horrors are expected to anyone with even an elementary knowledge of World War II while Rhoda, a young twenty-something, tries to stay faithful to her fiance while being a young twenty-something. Yet these events are powerful in their simplicity and have repercussions that resonate a decade or more later. It's a read that will stay with me for a while.
Find my complete review at http://historicaltapestry.blogspot.com.
WWII seems to be a hot topic in novels nowadays and I am one of those readers that eats it up! There is just something about the horror and sacrifice intermingled with the determination, bravery and sheer will to not only survive but to come out the other side stronger than ever that gets me every time. Most of these stories seem to take the reader to the frontlines of the battles or into the homes of those left behind to pine for loved ones fighting. Brief Encounters, however, is the first I have read that gives us an inside look at what it was like for British soldiers forced to work for the Germans in prisoner of war camps as well as the complicated emotions of someone left behind who is ready for her life to begin even while those around her expect her to put her life on hold for a man she barely knows. These varied topics really pulled me into Brief Encounters and kept me turning the pages to find out how the story would unfold.
The story goes back and forth between 1955, when Rhoda Middleton discovers her husband Peter has been hiding an entire part of his life from her since he returned from the war, and the late 1930s through 1945 when Rhoda and Peter meet, go through a quick courtship and Peter enlists and goes off to become a driver and finds himself a prisoner of war . Mostly alternating between Peter's and Rhoda's points of view, the reader gets to see first hand the struggles both of them go through during the war and what they hide from each other when Peter returns, leading to the marriage difficulties they are facing in 1955.
When we first meet Peter and Rhoda in 1955, their marriage of ten years seems to be a complete shame with no real relationship, either physical or emotional, and with both of them just going through the motions of everyday life. It isn't until Rhoda finds a letter from a woman named Helen and she thinks Peter is having an affair that she finally learns how little she knows about her husband's past and what he went through while he was in a prisoner of war camp. As she builds a friendship with Helen, the wife of a man Peter survived the camp with, she begins to better understand the man she's married to and how her secrets have served to put a wedge between them as much as his. It is only with being honest with each other and letting their guards down that they might stand a chance at a happy life together.
The most captivating part of this twisting story for me was Peter's time in the camp. Davina Blake does an exceptional job of plopping the reader into the camp and making them feel, hear, see what these prisoners had to go through. The descriptions of what would go through their minds and what they experienced really helped not only to immerse me in the action but to somewhat explain why Peter becomes this different man when he goes home. Watching Peter and his fellow prisoners not only try to survive but retain some humanity was inspiring and I won't soon forget their stories.
While Rhoda's side of the story is less dramatic and attention-grabbing I did enjoy seeing her struggle against what she believed was expected of her as a "fiancée" (although you can barely call Peter her fiancée while he is serving as he asked her so abruptly before leaving for the war) and what her heart was telling her she wanted out of life. I couldn't help but feel for her, left at home with a less than perfect family life, always expected to find something useful to do with every second she had to spare, and wanting nothing more than to live a little as any red-blooded young woman in her early twenties would want to do. I don't want to give too much away regarding the secret she has kept hidden from Peter but it is quite bittersweet and even when I finished the story I couldn't help but feel that she never really got what she wanted out of life.
Brief Encounters is a long but enticing story of the endurance of the human spirit, the hunger for love and appreciation and how secrets can fester and tear people away from each other. I only wish that the author had included an author's note at the back of the book that explained more about the real Great March of prisoners of war (something I knew nothing about) and maybe more facts regarding the loses sustained during the war (and I know I could just look this up online but I always enjoy turning that last page and finding that information ready to drive home the reality of what people such as the ones found in the book actually experienced). I highly recommend this to any lover of WWII history!