‘Her sisters lost their boyfriends and sweethearts in the mud and gore of France.’
The Road to Givenchy: The Story behind the Story
By Gavin Dobson
As a young boy I often visited my maternal grandmother, Winifred. Her house in Newington became a gathering place for her sisters—my great aunts. In their soft Highland voices, they told stories of their young brother, killed in France in 1915 at the age of 20, and of his many friends who never came back.
My grandmother was the only one to marry and have children. Her sisters lost their boyfriends and sweethearts in the mud and gore of France. They became successful teachers and led fulfilled and useful lives, but always seemed haunted by their sense of loss.
The same trauma pervaded my grandfather’s family, whose youngest boy died from his wounds in 1919.
Each boy was the apple of his family’s eye. They were scholars, athletes; witty, handsome; but cut down before they’d had a chance to prove their brilliant futures. Thus, I felt compelled to write this book.
Harry Mackinnon is a composite of the two young men who perished: a son of the Manse, a scholar who wins a fellowship in 1914 to a Belgian university to help catalogue ancient manuscripts. In the months leading to the outbreak of war he befriends a young German and falls in love with the daughter of his hostess. He is caught up in the excitement and turmoil of France in the early days of war.
Above all, Harry is the embodiment of the talents, charm and lost gene pool of a brilliant generation.
I stress that this book is pure fiction, though set in a recognizable historical framework. When I state that something of historic importance happened on a particular date, it did. The political count-down, the military training, the battles, the civilian outrages, are all, to the best of my research, as accurate as possible to lend authenticity to the story.
The Road to Givenchy by Gavin Dobson is published in June by Strident Publishing priced £8.99.