To Serve Them All My Days by R. F. Delderfield
First Published: 1972
Republished: March 1, 2009
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Book 33 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is an in depth look into the life of David Powlett-Jones, a history teacher at a British boarding school for boys named Bamfylde. David joined the school at the end of WW1 as a shell-shocked young man trying to regain some sense of his life. He finds purpose in his existence at the school, one that ultimately becomes an inseparable part of who he is and determines his life's work.
It's difficult to sum up an amazing piece of literature that spans the period of British history from the end of WW1 to the beginning of WW2 all through David's eyes. But the novel leaves no stone unturned. It delves into David finding love, molding the mind's of impressionable youth, dealing with common room politics, and all the disappointments, joys, heartaches, and triumphs of a life fully lived. David is not perfect, but I found myself rooting for him every step of the way.
Those with an interest in the British political climate of the period will find this book fascinating. Some of it was a bit over my head, but it did not stifle the enjoyment of the book for me. I actually learned a lot while reading. There is some language used that is reflective of the time period and some terminology that is peculiar to British public (which really means private) schools. I got a kick out of it since a lot of it was the same language used when I attended high school in England in the 1990s, just proving the depth and importance of tradition to a school like Bamfylde.
I attended a school with a very similar history to Bamfylde. (Some of the girls I graduated from high school with were part of the first batch of girls to arrive when the school became co-educational in the 1980s.) While I'm sure my own life experiences play into it some, I absolutely loved this book and would definitely recommend it. The writing was superb. At 600 pages, it is truly a book to savor and not to be rushed. I look forward to reading more books by R.F. Delderfield in the future and getting my hands on a copy of the 1980 BBC miniseries of this book!
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