Customer Reviews for

To Serve Them All My Days

Average Rating 4
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Fascinating Read

David Powlett-Jones returns from three years experiencing the horrors of trench warfare during World War I. Injured and suffering the after-effects of shell-shock, he turns to teaching. He finds a job teaching history at Bamfylde School in Cornwall, England.

Driven ...
David Powlett-Jones returns from three years experiencing the horrors of trench warfare during World War I. Injured and suffering the after-effects of shell-shock, he turns to teaching. He finds a job teaching history at Bamfylde School in Cornwall, England.

Driven by his experiences, David soon finds that he is not as interested in teaching history as it has always been taught at Bamfylde; a dry complilation of dates, battles and rulers as he is in opening the eyes of his students to the reality of war. He believes that there is rarely a reason for war, and that the damage is so severe that only as a last resort should it be contemplated. The boys he teaches are quite interested in this viewpoint, and David becomes a popular master with them. His theories find opposing views among some of the other masters, however. The chief of his opponents is Carter, who teaches science and heads up the student Cadet Corps. He vehemently opposes Powlett-Jones, and tries to thwart his teaching style however he can.

As David heals, he also finds love. He marries a nurse, Beth, and they are blessed with twin daughters. David's happiness is short-lived, however, as Beth and one of the daughters are killed in a car accident. Following this, David's life is one of depression, and only teaching and the need to provide for his surviving daughter pulls him through the next decade.

When the headmaster who hired David retires, several candidates for headmaster are considered. David is one candidate, while his nemesis, Carter, is another. The decision is made not to choose either internal candidate for fear of creating havoc at the school. An outsider is chosen. Unfortunately, this outsider is a dictatorial rule-follower, who ruins morale and brings the school close to chaos. When he dies, David is chosen to be the new headmaster.

This coincides with his new relationship. He remarries to Christine, and they have a son. Now in his 40's, David has finally found resolution to many of his questions and concerns, and is in a stable period. But, the drums of war are starting to beat again. David is faced with the prospect of World War II, and readying his students to face another world convulsion.

I can't thank Sourcebooks enough for reprinting the R.F. Delderfield novels. All of them are wonderful reads, engrossing and comforting at the same time. To Serve Them All My Days is an interesting look at not only one man's life and his reaction to war, but a glimpse into the world of British education and the society that had to face two world wars within forty years. It is difficult to comprehend today the amount of death and destruction that was everyday life for most of the world during this time period. This book is recommended for lovers of historical fiction or for anyone interested in a great read.

posted by sandiek on November 22, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

Title is appropriate.David Powlett-Jones is dedicated to improving the lives of the boys at Bamfylde-School. The obstacles placed in his path seem insurmountable. Jones works through personal tragedies to serve the students.

I do not understand the British educational system. I think of school as grades K-12. Lower schools and fifth forms. This I find perplexing. The author makes the characters very human. Every character in this book has a story brought to life by Delderfield. War and th...
I do not understand the British educational system. I think of school as grades K-12. Lower schools and fifth forms. This I find perplexing. The author makes the characters very human. Every character in this book has a story brought to life by Delderfield. War and the threat of war is constant. How the adults and the children deal with it is fascinating to say the least.

posted by Richard63 on September 8, 2009

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  • Posted November 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating Read

    David Powlett-Jones returns from three years experiencing the horrors of trench warfare during World War I. Injured and suffering the after-effects of shell-shock, he turns to teaching. He finds a job teaching history at Bamfylde School in Cornwall, England.

    Driven by his experiences, David soon finds that he is not as interested in teaching history as it has always been taught at Bamfylde; a dry complilation of dates, battles and rulers as he is in opening the eyes of his students to the reality of war. He believes that there is rarely a reason for war, and that the damage is so severe that only as a last resort should it be contemplated. The boys he teaches are quite interested in this viewpoint, and David becomes a popular master with them. His theories find opposing views among some of the other masters, however. The chief of his opponents is Carter, who teaches science and heads up the student Cadet Corps. He vehemently opposes Powlett-Jones, and tries to thwart his teaching style however he can.

    As David heals, he also finds love. He marries a nurse, Beth, and they are blessed with twin daughters. David's happiness is short-lived, however, as Beth and one of the daughters are killed in a car accident. Following this, David's life is one of depression, and only teaching and the need to provide for his surviving daughter pulls him through the next decade.

    When the headmaster who hired David retires, several candidates for headmaster are considered. David is one candidate, while his nemesis, Carter, is another. The decision is made not to choose either internal candidate for fear of creating havoc at the school. An outsider is chosen. Unfortunately, this outsider is a dictatorial rule-follower, who ruins morale and brings the school close to chaos. When he dies, David is chosen to be the new headmaster.

    This coincides with his new relationship. He remarries to Christine, and they have a son. Now in his 40's, David has finally found resolution to many of his questions and concerns, and is in a stable period. But, the drums of war are starting to beat again. David is faced with the prospect of World War II, and readying his students to face another world convulsion.

    I can't thank Sourcebooks enough for reprinting the R.F. Delderfield novels. All of them are wonderful reads, engrossing and comforting at the same time. To Serve Them All My Days is an interesting look at not only one man's life and his reaction to war, but a glimpse into the world of British education and the society that had to face two world wars within forty years. It is difficult to comprehend today the amount of death and destruction that was everyday life for most of the world during this time period. This book is recommended for lovers of historical fiction or for anyone interested in a great read.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 8, 2009

    Title is appropriate.David Powlett-Jones is dedicated to improving the lives of the boys at Bamfylde-School. The obstacles placed in his path seem insurmountable. Jones works through personal tragedies to serve the students.

    I do not understand the British educational system. I think of school as grades K-12. Lower schools and fifth forms. This I find perplexing. The author makes the characters very human. Every character in this book has a story brought to life by Delderfield. War and the threat of war is constant. How the adults and the children deal with it is fascinating to say the least.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 11, 2015

    A great novel. At first I was put off by the length, but it read

    A great novel. At first I was put off by the length, but it reads rather quickly. Interesting characters and a writing style that takes you into the time period.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2013

    Excellent look at life in an English "public" school

    I first picked up this book in the Eighties, after seeing the television adaptation of it on Masterpiece Theatre. I still enjoy this book to today. It can, perhaps, get a touch sentimental at points, which is why I knock one star off the rating; but the overall story and its theme of hope, healing and preservation holds up to today.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2013

    Loved it!

    Better than your average summer read by far

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2008

    A reviewer

    Delderfield chronicals the life P. J. a nineteen year old verteran of three years in the hell of trench warefare. Invalided out in 1917, he regains sanity and purpose in molding the live of hundreds of boys as a schoolmaster on the Exmoor plateau in Cornwall, England. Tender, heroic, tragic and funny. I still enjoyed with nostagia the portrait of my homeland.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2002

    Wonderful

    A great book to get lost in.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2002

    A touching view of mid-century education

    David Powlett-Jones' struggles with his subject, with his dedication to the education of the young men in his charge, while still trying to reconcile the violence of the times with his own innate pacifism, makes a fascinating story. As a 30-year teacher, I would give my teaching certificate to be in his classroom, to give him a hand. Every new teacher should read this book. I did, when I had been teaching for one year. It was an inspiration.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2001

    You can hear the school bell ring.

    In my opinion, the most gripping of his novels. From the first page you are pitched, head first, into the very real world inhabited by these characters. Having been to an English boarding school, I can vouch for the realism! You can smell the dust on the school books and hear the bell ring; the characters are so real you form attachments to them and soon have a 'favorite'! Each time I read this book I enjoy it so much I hate to finish.

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