Monday, October 5, 2009

To Serve Them All My Days by R.F. Delderfield

My dream profession had always been teaching. I got my degree and then I did work as a teacher in Poland for a period of two years and even now, ten years later, I look back at it as my best times working. Somehow, life didn’t work out the way I wanted and while living here I gave up teaching and became a translator instead. But I still do look back with nostalgia and sentiment at the time when I felt most fulfilled spending time in a classroom with my students. Therefore, reading To Serve Them All My Days by R.F. Delderfield became a very personal and beautiful experience to me.

The novel gives us a story of David Powlett-Jones, a young man traumatized by three years fighting in WWI , who ends up getting a teaching position in Bamfylde, a public school for boys in England. P.J., as he is called by all who know him, applied for this job at the suggestion of his war doctor to heal his mental and emotional wounds acquired while fighting in this war meant to end all wars. David soon finds out that teaching is not merely a job but that it becomes a way of living and true healing. He makes dear friends among teachers and students alike and discovers that he was born to be a teacher, a guide for all the boys who change from children into adolescents right in front of his eyes and under his guidance. And miraculously, his own wounds do heal and the school prepares him for what’s to come in life just as much as it does those boys he teaches. It’s another wonderful saga by Delderfield spanning the years between the end of WWI and the beginning years of WWII in which there is a lot happening in England just as much as in all other parts of the world.

In my review of God Is An Englishman, I already expressed my great affection towards Delderfield’s writing talent. To Serve Them All My Days not only confirmed it but turned out to be actually better even though I didn’t think it possible. It is not an easy book to read in terms of the subject it deals with. There are many heartbreaking moments when I was reminded how much havoc WWI did wreak in lives of all people, especially the ones who survived. David, who as a boy went through the death of his father and his two older brothers who died buried in a collapsed coal mine, emerged from the three years spent on the battlefield shattered and without hopes for ever being able to deal with war experiences. Bamfylde’s headmaster, Algy, deals with the deaths of boys he came to treat as his sons, he raised to adulthood only to send them to their demise. Many times I cried because I was reminded how real all these war experiences were even to us, almost a century later. Not to mention, David’s commitment to his students and his life lived through his teaching, was something I could identify with to the point where I would stop and think that by giving up teaching myself, I defied my destiny somehow.

I truly adored this novel and I was sad to let it go. I wish there had been more of David and all others that came after him. R.F. Delderfield is now officially on the list of my favorite writers. The book is quite big, with 600 pages but once I started reading I didn’t notice the length at all. Reading To Serve Them All My Days is an experience, not merely an activity and it is one of those books that give you a story you will not soon forget, that will give you characters that you will know, inside out, and you will crave to meet one more time.

Special Thanks to Danielle J. from Sourcebooks, Inc for sending me a copy of this book for review.

Book Info:

Author: R.F. Delderfield
Title: To Serve Them All My Days
Published In: 2009
By: Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.
ISBN: 1402218249

If you would like to get other points of view, please visit:

Kristen's review @ We Be Reading

Tricia's review @ Library Queue

Carey's review @ The Tome Traveller's Weblog