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Reviewed by Charles Remington for Readers' Favorite
The Imposter: A Norfolk Romance by Chris Shaw opens with a short chapter describing the gruesome life of a First World War sniper, but quickly moves on to the start of the Norfolk romance mentioned in the title. It is Saturday night and Frank Matthews is at a dance in the local village hall when he notices the most beautiful girl he has ever seen entering. Having no idea how to approach such a beauty, he is astounded when the girl in question strolls right up and asks to join him. So commences a whirlwind romance which, against the backdrop of the early days of WW1, culminates in their marriage. But their married bliss is sadly interrupted when Frank enlists and goes off to serve his country. His talent as a marksman is spotted early, so he spends the rest of the war serving as a sniper, an extremely dangerous duty and one which brings so much danger, horror and pressure that his sanity slowly leeches away into the mud and the blood of the trenches. His luck runs out when a shell explodes close enough to him to cause a good deal of physical damage and he wakes screaming in a front-line medical unit. It is a hard road back to normality but can he put the horrors he has witnessed behind him? Can he win back the love of his life – can he even hope to regain some sort of mental equilibrium? As simple agricultural work and the beautiful North Norfolk countryside begin to soothe him, a small germ of belief begins to grow.
I nearly missed The Imposter: A Norfolk Romance as I rarely review romances, but I am so glad that I took it on - it has proved to be a first-class novel. I lived in Norfolk for a very happy ten years, quite close to all the places mentioned in the book and can confirm that the area is accurately described. The narrative moves at a brisk pace with the scenes both in the Norfolk countryside and the WW1 battlefields and trenches brilliantly observed. I found the characters solid and well-drawn and their situations, from the horrendous conditions for those unsuspecting WW1 recruits to the joyful flights of first love, to be expertly portrayed. Mr. Shaw has used characters from his own family along with his experience of living in Norfolk to flesh out his novel, and in doing so has created a very special book. I thoroughly enjoyed The Imposter - it is a very worthwhile, rewarding story on several fronts and I do not hesitate to recommend it.