‘Sam expected to see the lights on the promenade twinkling off into the distance, the wings of the angel statue silhouetted against the moonlit sky, the cliffs standing sentinel at either end of the town.
But what she expected no longer existed’
We’ve Come To Take You Home is the debut novel from Susan Gandar. Published by Matador in 2016, it is a novel spanning generations, a book of historical fiction with a dual timeline.
Quite a fascinating and poignant read…please read on for my thoughts..
Samantha Foster and Jessica Brown are destined to meet. One lives in the twentieth century, the other in the twenty-first century
April 1916 and thousands of men have left home to fight in the war to end all wars. Jessica Brown’s father is about to be one of those men. A year later, he is still alive but Jess has to steal to keep her family from starving. And then a telegram arrives – her father has been killed in action.
Four generations later, Sam Foster’s father is admitted to a hospital’s intensive care unit with a suspected brain haemorrhage. A nurse asks if she would like to take her father’s hand. Sam refuses. All she wants is to get out of this place, stuck between the world of the living and the world of the dead, a place with no hope and no future, as quickly as possible.
As Sam’s father’s condition worsens, her dreams become more frequent – and more frightening. She realises that what she is experiencing is not a dream, but someone else’s living nightmare…
I started and finished this book in one day which says a lot about how I feel about Susan Gandar’s writing.
I was very lucky to have Susan join me a few weeks back with an extremely emotional and very personal guest post relating to the importance of organ donation which you can read HERE
Since then I have been looking at Susan’s book in my ‘To-Be-Read’ pile and decided this week to finally sit down and read it, which I am now very glad I did.
We’ve Come To Take You Home is a very unusual story with a rather ‘other worldly’ twist.
April 1916 ~ Jessica Brown’s father leaves to fight in the trenches of World War 1. With descriptions reminiscent of Sebastian Faulks Birdsong, tears came to my eyes as I felt like I was reliving a time that no one should ever forget.
‘The sea of mud wasn’t that at all. It was a sea of blood and bones. There were arms, legs, heads and hands, layer upon layer of them. And the blood and the bones weren’t all dead. Some were alive and still suffering. Their cries rose up all around her’
Jessica and her family suffer the effects of deprivation associated with war. Food shortages, no fuel, dark cold winters and no sign of this nightmare coming to an end.
Jessica, with the assistance of her mother finds work in a big house in London and through Jessica’s eyes we hear and feel the sounds of the city
‘Cars and horses pulling carts, and strange looking things which looked like very tall cars…and she’d never heard so much noise…iron-shod wheels going over stone cobbles made enough noise to waken the dead’
Jessica begins a solitary journey as a general servant in a house that has seen the devastation that war can bring. A fast learner, Jessica soon settles down to a routine, albeit a very difficult one. As time passes, Jessica adapts to life in London as the war continues, but circumstances lead Jessica down a very unexpected and tragic path.
Through Susan Gandar’s style of writing, you feel you are journeying with Jessica. Every smile, every tear shed stays with you.
Meanwhile, Sam Foster is living a very different life over 100 years later. Residing in a household that is struggling with problems, Sam feels stuck between her parents rows. Her Dad, a pilot, is away quite often and Sam’s mother is unable to cope with his continuous absences.
Growing up an only child, Sam had always sought the company of her imaginary friends. Her parents were concerned when she was younger, but as the years moved on, Sam no longer felt the presence of her special friends.
An accident involving her Dad results in Sam’s life changing forever.
The story of Sam and Jessica is beautiful. Two girls in two different centuries become intertwined as this book unravels it’s secrets.
The reader is sensitively transported from the trenches of World War 1 to the wards of a modern day hospital.
We’ve Come To Take You Home is a very poignant and beautiful read about discovering past secrets and finding yourself along the way.
I really enjoyed Susan’s book and look forward to her next novel which I have no doubt will be just as special.
Just a quick mention about the cover – it is so very striking. It portrays the trenches of the war with the red of the poppy flowers peeking out, as a young girl’s head is lowered in obvious grief. It definitely catches the eye of the prospective reader.
Purchase Link : We’ve Come To Take You Home
Meet Susan Gandar:
“I grew up surrounded by stories and storytelling.
My father, John Box, was a film production designer, working on ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘Dr. Zhivago’, ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘A Man For All Seasons’ and the musical ‘Oliver’. Our house was always filled with people, usually eccentric, always talented, invariably stroppy, discussing stories. My mother put my father’s four Oscars to good use as toilet roll holders, doorstops and hat stands.
A major chunk of my childhood was spent loitering around on film sets. Who needs an ‘English education’ when you have the marble-dusted streets of downtown Moscow, ten miles outside of Madrid, to explore?
But then the years of ‘Who Will Buy My Sweet Red Roses’ came to a rather abrupt end. Reality knocked on the door in the guise of the Metropolitan Line to Shepherds Bush and the BBC. Working in television as a script editor and story consultant, I was part of the creative team responsible for setting up ‘Casualty’. I became known for going after the more ‘difficult’ stories at the same time successfully racking up viewing figures from 7 to 14 million.
I went on to develop various projects for both the BBC and the independent sector. The period I enjoyed most was working with Jack Rosenthal, a wonderful writer, on the series ‘Moving Story’ – ‘That’s a situation, a good situation, but now you need to make it into a story.’
Martin, my husband, was made an offer he couldn’t refuse and we left England to live in Amsterdam. ‘Ik wil een kilo kabeljauw, alstublieft’ will, if all goes well, buy you a piece of cod – I decided to concentrate on my writing rather than my Dutch pronunciation.
My debut novel, ‘We’ve Come to Take You Home’, set in the present and in 1918, a crossover aimed at the adult and young adult women’s fiction market, was published in the Spring of 2016.”
You can find out more about Susan Gandar on