In her play, This Wretched Splendour, Rebecca Wilby delivered a remarkable foray into the social dynamics of the World War One trenches. In her new novel, In Different Skies, she delves even deeper into that subterranean world with remarkable and sometimes grisly verisimilitude. Modern day characters, generations away from the trenches of the Loos and the Somme, become mysteriously connected to the fading and scantly documented memories of the war dead. What begins with involuntary and haunting glimpses becomes a veritable treasure hunt for lost eulogies and last rites. Two worlds collide and the safe vacuity of the contemporary world slowly becomes eclipsed by a far darker one – but one with tenacious characters holding on to their humour and purpose against all odds. A war often reduced to mindless chaos by historians becomes gripping technological and psychological theatre under Wilby’s pen, one which continues to wage against collective erasure in order to find final redemption.
“The heavy guns had been pounding High Wood for many hours, and we took it in turns to watch through the periscope as plumes of smoke rose out from the tree stumps and great gouts of earth shot up into the air. Sometimes human figures were visible in the flying earth, the dead left over from the last push for High Wood, tossed into the air, resettling, and tossing again as if they were taking part in some bizarre circus display. Rumour has it that the only men who came back alive from that push were gibbering and mad. And now it was our turn. When our guns went quiet, we surged forward. ”
In Different Skies is available now from the Skylight website, priced £9.99.