Northwords Now Issue 37

The FREE literary magazine of the North

Effie’s War by Philip Paris

(Black & White) 2018

A Review by Cynthia Rogerson

War stories often feed the reader’s appetite for familiar dramas of trenches, concentration camps and spies.  This novel is not like that.  Effie’s War adds something new and important to our stock of knowledge, for it explores events which have almost been forgotten.  Events, indeed, which were almost buried during their own time.  For this we can thank Philip Paris, who discovered his quiet nook of rural idyll was not always so.

From Dec 1943 to May 1944, all residents of Inver, Tarbet and Fearn were evacuated in order for British soldiers to practise for D-Day landing. They had almost no warning, and had to remove all livestock as well as leave their homes.  These individuals are honoured by an obscure plaque and their sacrifices might seem minor compared to the Londoners cowering in underground shelters, or to pilots heading across the channel knowing a return trip was unlikely.  Nevertheless, these farming families were victims of the war, albeit mostly unsung. Their lives were changed profoundly, and some never regained what they surrendered.  And unlike the Londoners, they were not prepared practically or emotionally for this.

Paris explores the repercussions of the evacuation and the prisoners-of-war on the community. Spouses, siblings, parents, employers and workers had to adjust their attitudes and values.  The heroine, young Effie, falls in love with Toni, an Italian prisoner of war.  She is spirited, bright and attractive of course, but Paris manages to keep her from stereotype.  Effie is a convincing girl, fraught with doubt and impulses she hardly understands.  They love each other but there are complications, and the thread of this thwarted romance is one of the things that keep the reader engaged.

Paris has written about the war before - a novel titled The Italian Chapel and a non-fiction book on the same theme, Orkney’s Italian Chapel. These are fine books, well-reviewed, but with Effie’s War, he achieves more in terms of cohesion and impact. Simply put, it’s a solid good read. I look forward to the next publication from Paris.