By Trevor D'Silva
It’s 1915 in the heat of WWI. Two friends heading to England aboard the British ocean liner, RMS Lusitania, meet and fall in love with a charismatic woman. After battling for her affection, Rachel Williams makes her decision, beginning a journey that no one can predict or soon forget. For the next thirty years, Rachel is forced to live with the choice she made, as the dominos fall around her, sequentially. Is there a sinister force at work? Who can Rachel trust? Will Rachel ultimately regret her decision when she learns how it impacted others? Set in America and Europe, history and fiction intertwine, commencing with the sinking of Lusitania. Historical events like The Russian Revolution, Prohibition, The Great Depression and World Wars I and II also play important roles in the lives of the characters and the decisions they make to love, betray, forgive, and reconcile.
"I have a feeling that your life will be in turmoil if you get involved with these men."
Rachel Williams should have listened. She should have turned around, walked away and never looked back. But, there was something endlessly fascinating about those Long Island boys.
It was hard to watch your best friend marry the woman you love. Rudolph "Rudy" Holzmann was so sure that Rachel would choose to marry him, but no. Why would she? Fred Johnson had everything — money, position, hotels. However, Rachel would regret her decision. Rudy knew she would. He would make sure she did...
From a chance meeting on the British ocean liner Lusitania, as it left New York Harbour to a wedding that would bring the Johnson family full circle, Fateful Decisions by Trevor D'Silva, is a story that spans 30 years of history and one woman's life.
Having read D'Silva’s second book, I was looking forward to reading his debut. I have to admit at times I struggled with this story. The plot was fabulous, but the writing felt a little underdeveloped. I also felt that D'Silva was overly ambitious with the timeframe of this book. In just over 300 pages, D'Silva covers over 30 years of a very turbulent time in world history The book starts during World War I, we follow the characters as they negotiate the Wall Street Crash of 1929, through to the coronation of King George VI in 1937. We also witness the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 and World War II. So much history. D'Silva approaches this in a snapshot sort of way, given the smallest amount of detail while concentrating on the characterisation of the cast. I can understand why D'Silva chose to present his story this way — otherwise, this book would have been epic in proportion. However, I would have liked a little more detail, but that is just a personal preference.
I also struggled to connect with the protagonist, who very quickly, in my opinion, became the antagonist in this novel. To begin with Rachel came across as innocently naïve. But as the story progressed, Rachel allows the wealth that her husband so lovingly bestows on her to go to her head. Rachel becomes selfish and cruel, caring only about her own pleasures, her own interests. There are events in this story that are harrowing, and some terrible things happen to Rachel, but I struggled to sympathise with her. There is one shocking scene when she loses control of her temper and slaps her young daughter so hard that she causes her child to have a nose bleed — that was the moment I could not come back from. Rachel is a cruel woman whom I despised from that moment on. That scene really haunted me throughout the book.
Fred Johnson, the unfortunate man who asked Rachel to marry him, is a character I really liked. He is a very generous man who just wanted his wife to be happy. Fred gives Rachel everything she could possibly desire, but Rachel never loved him, she never really tried to. Rachel married Fred because she needed to marry someone, and he was a good catch. I think this puts a terrible strain on their relationship, and it was, therefore, always doomed to fail. Of course, it is not helped by Rudy, who hides his jealousy of his best friend under a mask of good intentions. Yes, Fred makes mistakes, and yes, he is sorry for them, but I think Rachel was just looking for a way to leave him and his one mistake in a drunken stupor gave her that excuse.
Rudy is a very complex character whom at first, I liked a lot — I was secretly hoping that Rachel would marry him. However, he endures a great deal of prejudice because of his German heritage, and the fact the Rachel rebuked him, causes him to undergo a significant personality change. Rudy becomes someone unrecognisable. I thought D'Silva’s depiction of Rudy was superb. He is such a complex character, and the transformation that occurs within him was wonderfully portrayed.
Another character who I found endlessly fascinating was Barbara (Catherine), Rachel and Fred's daughter. Due to a terrible accident, and a severe case of amnesia, Barbara's life changes forever. Barbara has a rough time of it, especially in the beginning with her emotionally unstable mother, but she grows up to be a very caring young woman.
If you enjoy a family saga then I think you will find this book an exciting addition to your bookshelf.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.
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Trevor D’Silva has a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering; M.S. degrees in Engineering Management, and Environmental Engineering; and an Associate degree in Accounting. He has lectured in mechanical engineering and environmental science subjects at various colleges. Fateful Decisions is his first novel, encompassing history and fiction from WW I to the end of WW II. He uses his free time to expand his knowledge in history and reading crime, thrillers, and mystery novels.