The Blossoming Years
2007, Historical Fiction (1940s England)
Olympia, $15.83, 284 pages, Amazon ASIN 1905513151
The Blossoming Years is just that Ė the tale of a young man who blossoms into an adult. However, I saw it more as this manís fantasy, rather than anything based in reality. Where else but in fiction can you be the star student of your school, the hero of the football game (especially when you arenít even on the team until the game is about to start), a fighter pilot ace, a war hero who falls in love with his nurse, a savior who rushes in to save two females who are important to him, and a crime fighter? While some of his actions are heroic, I found him immature, hypocritical, and quite unrealistic.
Phil Masters comes of age in a time of great excitement and turmoil. His story begins on his summer holiday when he gets to indulge his love of bird watching and the collecting bird eggs, described by the author in excruciating detail. However, the story continues with Phil falling in love for the first time with Jane, his cousin who comes to stay for the summer. Even though the couple is young and separated, their love continues to grow. Unfortunately, World War II intercedes and Phil heeds the call of duty and volunteers for service, quickly becoming a Royal Air Force fighter pilot. As he matures, he feels urges that any man would and wants his relationship to advance with Jane, who is determined to have a ring on her finger before things progress. Bitter with anger and jealousy, Phil ends the relationship with his long-time love.
Phil goes on to find other loves, some true and some superficial. However, death and other tragedies mark the relationships. At one point, he marries and the relationship falters and is not resolved in the course of the story. He eventually reunites with Jane and they attempt a relationship again.
Despite the fact that Phil faces many hardships in his journey to adulthood, I did not feel one iota of sympathy for him. As a matter of fact, I wanted to give him a swift kick in the ass on several occasions. Jane, however, receives my full sympathy for putting up with Phil, although I thought she should kick him to the curb. After they are reunited, she faces three extremely traumatic events and Phil becomes bitter again for practically the same reasons that separated them in the beginning. In other words, he never reaches a level of maturity that should accompany his years and experiences.
Holdenís writing style also annoyed me. This is definitely an example of a story that you are told; the reader is not allowed to see how the characters handle the situations that arise. I also had to repress the wild urge to go through and add punctuation. Though the HEA is provided in the last two pages of the novel (no, Iím not kidding), the coupleís problems are by no means resolved in my mind. Considering the era in which the novel is set, the one thing that can make the relationship respectable in the eyes of the community and mend Janeís relationship with her mother is not provided. Jane also backtracks on all the principles she originally held dear, which she begins to see as not all that important anyway. Therefore, Phil gets his HEA, but I felt as though Jane is deprived of hers.
Though there is nothing truly romantic World War II era, it is one that I usually enjoy reading about. However, I was disappointed with The Blossoming Years and feel it did not do justice to the era or the people who lived it.
-- Heather Brooks
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