The last book I read by Ms. Waters was, “Catch the Moon, Mary,” which in my review of the book I called it a ‘little gem.’ “Fields of Grace,” is not a little gem, but a much ‘larger, polished GEM.’ It is a beautifully crafted book that covers seven decades (two in great depth), an abundance of great characters (enough for three novels), beautifully written and with multiple plots that are completely realized.
Grace Fieldergill (shortened to Grace Fielder) is a starry eyed young actress from a small town (Devon) who moves to London to pursue her dream of becoming a star on the London stage. She finds fame fairly quickly as she is hired by John Gielgud’s company to be an understudy to the famous actress Peggy Ashcroft who is playing ‘Ophelia’ in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Ms. Ashcroft misses a performance which gives Grace a chance to shine, and she shines like the brightest of stars, and is lucky enough to have a famous, extremely rich, actress and a well-known producer in the stands watching her performance. Needless to say, her career takes off like a rocket.
Ms. Waters’ fictionalized versions of Sir John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft, Sir Laurence Olivier, David Nivens and a host of other stage and film legends during the thirties and forties in London makes this novel even more delightful, and the author has certainly done her homework on the life and times of these legendary performers, on the impending war in Europe with the rise of Hitler, the war itself and its devastation, the murder of millions Jews, and the sin of being a homosexual in the 1930’s and 1940’s in Europe and the world.
Grace Fielder and that famous producer in the stands during her first real break, John Hopkins-Reimer, who is both a homosexual and half Jewish, fall in love and it is this unusual love affair that becomes the center of the novel and where the many subplots stem from and that the reader becomes fully enthralled and mesmerized in.
It is apparent that Ms. Waters is a lady of the theater. I was able to figure that out even before reading her bio. As a former theater major myself, I can tell you that only someone who loves the theater dearly, could right a book that deals with the theater so convincingly.
At the end of each year, I make a conscious list of the most important book I read that year, the best novel I read, the best poet (which usually turns out to be Byron) and the most enjoyable novel I read that year. Last year the most enjoyable book I read was Pete Hamill’s “North River.” This year and, I know it is early, the most enjoyable book I have read so far is Ms. Waters’ “Fields Of Grace.” It is interesting to note, that I read Mr. Hamill’s book very early in the year, the second week of the year to be exact.
I highly recommend this novel.