Kirby, Adam Peter
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Challenging Fates is a novel set at the time of the First World War which proposes an alternative history of the period. It approaches this in two ways. The chronology begins with the actual events of the outbreak of World War I, but proceeds to construct an alternative meta-narrative, seeking to create a seamless division between reality and fiction. This becomes the background against which the lives of members of four families from England, France, Germany and Russia are played out. Thus a series of micro-narratives is created, which help to explore some of the political, cultural and social aspects of early twentieth century Europe, while also carrying the reader into the lives, circumstances and decisions of the characters. The reader is introduced to a Quaker mill owning family from Huddersfield, in the north of England. Their eldest son, Stephen is an army officer, who becomes involved in politics and government as an aide to the Russian politician, Alexander Kerensky, who himself, must make his own decisions between family and politics. In Germany we meet Karl von Allenstein from a traditional Junker family, who has fallen in love with a French girl during his tour of duty in occupied France. As he tries to reintegrate into German society he becomes aware of the growing and insidious power of an extreme right wing group and must decide what action to take. A young patriotic Jew, called Philippe, is the chief protagonist in the French part of the narrative. He becomes entangled in an anti-Semitic plot to rescue and revitalise France along Fascist lines. As the plot comes to its climax, Stephen, Karl and Philippe play their parts within the one narrative, while Russia struggles to find its way between constitutional liberalism and socialist revolution. The book ends with an invitation into a new, but uncertain chapter in history.