The Arrival of the Missives by Aliya Whiteley
Author: Aliya Whiteley
Publisher: Unsung Stories
Published: Out Now
RRP: £6.99 ebook
The Arrival of the Missives is a genre-defying story of fate, free-will and the choices we make in life. In the aftermath of the Great War, Shirley Fearn dreams of challenging the conventions of rural England, where life is as predictable as the changing of the seasons. The scarred veteran Mr. Tiller, left disfigured by an impossible accident on the battlefields of France, brings with him a message part prophecy, part warning. Will it prevent her mastering her own destiny? As the village prepares for the annual May Day celebrations, where a new queen will be crowned and the future will be reborn again, Shirley must choose: change or renewal?
I was led to this story by C of the themiddleshelf.org and also its recent place in the Clarke Shadow project (which I hope to talk about more in the near future) . I went in pretty unaware of what the story was and to be frank was bowled over. A reminder that good stories can be found in the small press too and word of mouth really helps.
The story starts with Shelley a clever and very independent woman reaching the end of her school days and childhood. She feels the family pressing down on her regards future managing of the farm while her heart is set on training to be a teacher and also winning the heart of her teacher Mr. Tiller. You may think I’m setting the scene for a touching romance but this is a story that although slight (a little over a 100 pages) goes in amazing and surprising directions and has a lot to say about learning to understand yourself and the world you inhabit.
Mr. Tiller freshly returned from the WW1 battlefield has a secret to tell to Shirley; he has received a missive from the future and a calamity that could affect the fate of later generations needs her assistance to ensure things don’t happen. Shirley is convinced of the need to help Mr. Tiller and an unusual plan is in action centering around Daniel the son of the local blacksmith who somehow has a major impact on the future of humanity.
And that’s probably as much as I can give away. It’s a novel that touches on the war, time-travel, romance and emancipation. Shirley is a truly modern character starting to realize she has options beyond her village and at the same time find society and even Mr. Tiller have expectations of her playing only a certain role. For a small village we find some interesting relationships and realize many of the characters are all expecting certain roles to be played. A woman who defies the needs of her often male leaders can find herself in a very difficult position. Even acting on your impulses can get you into trouble where the village has its constant eyes on you. A big part of the enjoyment is Shirley’s reaction to this and how she starts to learn she too has power here.
As I read the story I kept guessing where it was leading and was always pleasantly surprised that the choices made were so much better. This is going to be one of those stories I am going to insist everyone has a read of so I get to squee about it later with you. It leaves you thinking about it for days after and I am definitely looking forward to Whiteley’s other tales.