Re-Review by Malcolm Smith

Review by Malcolm Smith for the Costa Blanca News (2)                               

“When I hurriedly reviewed OVER BY CHRISTMAS to be in time for its launch in September, I promised to do a more thorough job later and here it is.

William Daysh’s epic historic drama about the early years of the ‘War to end all wars’ proved to be too much for me to assimilate in the short few days I had to hand. However, I was quick to realise that this was not some potboiler but a very special factitious chronicle, so I dug deeply and dealt with it accordingly. Even from the early pages I was able to grasp the theme which poignantly encompassed fact and fiction; love and war, bloody devastating battles at sea and profiteering on the home front … a theme which continued throughout right to the final page. I did not liken it to an adventure as one reviewer did but as I became involved, I changed my opinion somewhat. Over By Christmas is not just one adventure but an ongoing series of adventures both at sea, at commando level and very much on a personal level with many of its controversial characters. It is also a deeply romantic melange of sagas from grass roots to aristocratic salons with no lack of cynicism en route. Some of the interlinked cameos manage to mirror humour at the least expected moments.

“Whereas Over By Christmas pinpoints actual historic blunders, exposing leaders unfit to lead and leaders whose thoughts were often not on the job in hand, it also graphically describes the valour and grit of some of the plot’s ‘extras.’ At the higher level, a prime minister who is more lovelorn than war torn, dithers dealing with a congress of Sea and War Lords who would rather bicker than cohesively plan, whilst profiteering on the home front becomes blatant. William Daysh – who served for many years in the Royal Navy – spent over two years researching to finally produce this down to earth ‘factional’ novel. The exceptionally accurate accounts of sea battles as far removed as the Falklands, the North Sea and Gallipoli are rivalled only by battles within the War Cabinet and on the political front.

It isn’t easy to produce a historical romance coupling political intrigue with a common everyday love story but Over By Christmas does so magnificently and plays it out in surprising fashion. At one stage I felt William Daysh was an incurable romantic, by the time I had achieved page 400, I realised the error of my opinion; he is a natural story­teller with something of a cynically humorous streak.

The plot, which ingeniously links different levels of life, at first focuses on the irrational infatuation of a British prime minister for a girl half his age. He spends time composing lyrical love letters on an almost hourly basis. With the Great War (1914-1918) imminent ,such behaviour should surely be considered lunacy.

Aside from the bickering bumbling and finagling of ‘The Cabinet’, life goes on at the ‘dock side.’ Two life-long Pompey friends, one a Royal Navy gunner, the other a shopkeeper, both fall under the spell of an intriguing if somewhat opportunist girl who is already ‘in that kind of trouble!’ This ménage-a-trois-plus sinuously writhes its way through the tale from a simple beginning to an epic end.

William Daysh intertwines his parallel plots in a pseudo-casual way that rivets attention. Politicians dither, decisive sea battles are fought and a prime minister pens emotional love letters rather than putting his mind to composing battle propaganda. Meanwhile the working class ‘love interest’ goes on hold in favour of illicit money making by ‘spiv’ traders.

Whilst a befogged and beleaguered British Parliament expects “fair play” German U Boats take a heavy toll on allied shipping by playing dirty. ‘Ruling the waves’ supremacy begins to waver. Kitchener is brought in to recruit front line ‘cannon fodder’ and hoorah; the British public still believes it will be Over By Christmas.

One of the best historical romances I have read for some time, this saga manages to be both educational and entertaining. I hope it will not be the author’s only excursion into the literary world and that he receives the acclaim he deserves. If my prediction is correct, I am sure that in William Daysh’s case it will not be Over By Christmas!”

                                                                                                                                               Malcolm Smith, 14 November 2008