In western Washington State, we are enjoying one of the most beautiful autumns in several years. The maple tree across the street has retained that brilliant scarlet, known only in autumn, far longer than I thought possible.
I hold on to the beauty a bit tighter because of several novels I have read recently, set around the First World War. The years 2014 to 2018 mark one-hundred-year anniversaries of events in that war. Today’s authors have written a number of novels in that time frame.
A Fine Summer’s Day, by Charles Todd, is one of them, set mostly in the months just before the war began. The book sets the stage for the post-war Ian Rutledge detective novels about a shattered veteran returning to work for Scotland Yard after his traumatic service in that war.
Todd captures the bitter-sweetness of the spring and early summer of 1914, before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, archduke of Austria-Hungary, began the blood-letting.
Young men and women fall in love and plan marriage. Fields are planted as they have been for millennia. Times seem as golden as the trees of this autumn.
Then the war came, a surprise to many Europeans, who thought the modern world had given up that sort of thing. Many of them were positive it would last no more than a few months. They believed their leaders were too wise to allow a prolonged conflict.
Unfortunately, a refusal to understand the limits of human wisdom and an inability to corral national pride contributed to an inhuman slaughter. It did not stop until an uneasy armistice came into effect over four years later.
I hope we do not take our blessings for granted. Humans still make foolish decisions.