In 1914, the brilliant engineer Charles Stoker is encouraged by his employers to join the R.F.C., leaving a wife and young son. He returns in 1918, physically broken. He refuses all offers of help from or contact with his former employers and creates a new life. In 1926, Charles is shockingly killed. After his death, his wife Millie discovers the hidden guilt behind his decisions. Then, in 1928, their son Charlie, an innocent, goes to college. When his life plans are turned upside down, he, like his father before him, faces the devastating consequences in his own way.
Episodes such as the one described in this excerpt occurred all over the country in the furious atmosphere prevailing during the General Strike of 1926. The underpaid and long-suffering workers from the coal mines, from the railways and from heavy industry had combined to force their employers to improve their terms, and if necessary to bring the government to its knees. For a few days, they believed they would succeed, but after nine terrible days of defiance, the strike ended in failure and division among the workers. The whole country had suffered and no-one had really gained a thing.
For a successful young couple in London, the future looked assured and wonderfully bright before the catastrophic events of 1914. Then, almost overnight, the western world was irretrievably altered. One might think it would be irretrievably shattered; but the will of man (and woman) to survive, to love, and to surmount all life's difficulties is the central theme of this book and the subsequent books of The Stoker Trilogy.
He would not be defeated. This was a constant in the character of the devoted Catholic engineer, Charles Stoker. Strength of character and moral uprightness drove the decisions of his life, and guided him through his years of struggle from the first World War to the Great Depression. The Stoker Trilogy recalls the world-changing events of the first half of the twentieth century as lived through by the Stoker family, Charles and Millie, and their son, Charlie. Charles and Charlie was conceived as Book One of the trilogy. The book tells how the son, after his father's shocking death, learns the secrets of Charles' heroism in the 1914-1918 war. Then, as he himself reaches manhood, the boy is forced to face a life-changing moment of his own. He must make a decision that creates a huge moral conflict for him. Facing the consequences of his decision brings Charlie to a new life, and the reader to the climax of the book. The conflict between what Charlie thinks is right and good and the inherent beliefs and strictures of his religious upbringing is a recurring sub-theme of the three book saga, which follows the lives, triumphs and disasters of the Stokers and all those associated with them through to the end of World War 2.
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