The Blue Bench – Paul Marriner

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*I received a free copy of this book, with thanks to the author.  The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*


Blurb:  Margate 1920. The Great War is over but Britain mourns and its spirit is not yet mended.Blue Bench 51uuj6bbaPL

Edward and William have returned from the front as changed men. Together they have survived grotesque horrors and remain haunted by memories of comrades who did not come home. The summer season in Margate is a chance for them to rebuild their lives and reconcile the past.

Evelyn and Catherine are young women ready to live life to the full. Their independence has been hard won and, with little knowledge of the cost of their freedom, they are ready to face new challenges side by side.

Can they define their own future and open their hearts to the prospect of finding love? Will the summer of 1920 be a turning point for these new friends? As the body of the Unknown Warrior is returned, can the nation find a way forward?


The Blue Bench is one of those emotionally immersive reads that leave you lost when you emerge, blinking, back into the so-called ‘real world’.

Nothing felt more real to me than Edward and William, Catherine and Evelyn, Georgette, Patrick, and the irrepressible Beatrice.  Paul Marriner plunges the reader into the everyday travails of these ordinary people: strong, heroic, cowardly, angry, sad, weak, joyful, loving and thoughtless.  The characterisation is subtle, superb and utterly compelling.  At no point did I remember that I was reading fiction, and long after putting the tome down I still have an urge to ‘check in on them’ all!

The plot follows this handful of people over the course of a few months in 1920, as their paths cross and bonds are forged, tested and broken.  There are no great world-shattering events here; rather Marriner exposes the shell-shocked lull after such an event, when the whole world feels strange and people struggle to re-find their place in it.  Whilst there are moments of joy and love, the overall feel is that of melancholy at the futility of life, interspersed with anger at the injustice of it.  And yet.  And yet, still those small moments seem strangely enough to carry both characters and readers through, with the hope that time will heal all if you can just keep putting one foot in front of the other for a little longer.

I was reminded very much of the compelling small-world-building of books like Middlemarch or the gently moralistic, human nature-based writing of storytellers like A.J. Cronin.  The Blue Bench deserves a rank amongst such classic literature for its exploration of human failure, redemption and loyalty.  Highly recommended.


   Edward returned the lighter to William and lit his own cigarette from his old trench lighter, sucking noisily.  The first drag was always loud while he worked out where to place the fag – the numbness in some parts of his face was unrelenting and still surprising.  A small boy on the next table heard the suck and turned, as did his mother.  She turned back quickly but the boy just looked.  He didn’t stare or betray any fear, he just looked, and Edward could see the questions playing in the boy’s mind.  Edward didn’t mind and smiled.  Before leaving Wandsworth General he had practised this smile in the mirror a hundred times, and though it wasn’t natural at least wasn’t the frightening grimace it had started out.  The boy returned the smile and went back to his bun.  William had seen and discreetly pulled a hip flask from his inside pocket.  He took a swig and offered it to Edward, who shook his head.  William raised the hip flask an inch or two saying, ‘To Major Gillies.’  He took another sip and held it out to Edward who shook his head again.  William persisted, ‘Come on Lieutenant.  To Major Gillies.’
‘I suppose.’  Edward nodded and took the hip flask, adding, ‘and to Derwent Wood,’ before sipping the Old Orkney scotch.

– Paul Marriner, The Blue Bench


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Find more from Paul Marriner at the Bluescale Publishing website, or follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

The Blue Bench is available on Amazon right now!


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2 thoughts on “The Blue Bench – Paul Marriner

    1. Definitely worth it. It’s weighty so I worried it would take me ages to read but I flew through It.


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