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Review: The Dark Tide, by Vera Brittain


Pages: 259
Original date of publication: 1923
My edition: 2002 (Virago Modern Classics)
Why I decided to read: it’s a VMC
How I acquired my copy: Awesomebooks, March 2011


The Dark Tide is an autobiographical novel set during Vera Brittain’s years at Oxford after WWI. The story opens when Daphne Lethbridge returns to finish her education at Oxford after working as a driver in the War. She takes up modern history and does her coaching with Virginia Dennison, a frustrating know-it-all who Daphne takes an immediate disliking to (partly, I think, because of jealousy). Although there are similarities between Vera and Winifred Holtby’s friendship and that of Daphne Lethbridge and Virginia Dennison, there are many differences (neither Vera or Winifred had a Raymond Sylvester in their lives, thankfully), and I think Vera infused a bit of her personality into both Daphne and Virginia.

However, both women are very, very different; Daphne is shy and awkward (but belongs to one of the top cliques in Drayton College), Virginia is a know-it-all and showoff. Neither of them is really likeable, but somehow they end up being friends. For it is the rejection of Raymond Sylvester’s marriage proposal to Virginia that leads to Daphne’s disastrous marriage to him. It’s similar to the butterfly effect—where one action leads to another, which leads to another, and so on. As a result, Virginia ends up feeling guilty for what happens to Daphne. I enjoyed seeing how these two disparate people would end up being sympathetic towards each other.

There are a couple of clichéd characters (Raymond Lester, the selfish, philandering husband comes to mind) and I thought it was hard to believe how Daphne, who’d lived through the War, could at the same time be so naive. But in all, I liked this novel—although I think Brittain‘s Testament of Youth is, of course, a far better book.

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