During World War I, four Allied soldiers experience the Battle of the Somme together in this “utterly gripping” historical novel (Booklist, starred review).
On July 1, 1913, four very different men are leading four very different lives. Benedict is a British music student. Jean-Baptiste is a French blacksmith apprentice. Harry is living a life of comfort with his American wife in New York, while working-class Frank, a carpenter and coffinmaker, spends his spare time racing bicycles in London.
Exactly three years later, it is just after seven in the morning, and there are a few seconds of peace as the guns on the Somme fall silent and larks soar across the battlefield, singing as they fly over the trenches. What follows is a day of catastrophe in which Allied casualties number almost one hundred thousand. A horror that would have been unimaginable not so long ago will forever change the lives of Benedict, Jean-Baptiste, Harry, and Frank.
From an author who “combines a Ruth Rendell–like psychological realism and a Dickensian feel for life’s roulette,” The First of July is an unforgettable epic that captures the chaos of the early twentieth century (The Wall Street Journal). “Gritty, disturbing, moody, and intensely real, the novel’s psychological impact is like those of Mary Doria Russell’s A Thread of Grace and Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke and asks readers to consider war’s high costs” (Booklist, starred review).
Praise for the novels of Elizabeth Speller
“Speller combines a Ruth Rendell–like psychological realism and a Dickensian feel for life’s roulette.” —The Wall Street Journal
“An elegant, moving read.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“World War I history buffs will enjoy the mystery, as will fans of period pieces. Readers who like Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series will savor this novel.” —Library Journal
“Intriguing. A captivating wartime whodunit.” —The Boston Globe
Elizabeth Speller studied classics at Cambridge University. She is the author of The Return of Captain John Emmett and The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton, both of which received stellar critical acclaim. She lives in England.