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27 May 2012

R F Delderfield: God is an Englishman

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God is an Englishman is Victorian historical fiction at its best
I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the world changing developments in commerce and industry in England in the mid/late 19th Century. I have always been fascinated by tales of the Industrial Revolution when English entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators changed life from an a rural/agricultural system to a modern industrial society in a matter of generations.

After a military career, Adam Swann returns to England in 1858  with an intense ambition to build his fortune in the fast changing and extremely competitive world of Victorian commerce. Swann soon meets his soul-mate, Henrietta, the high-spirited daughter of a local mill owner and they set out to build a family business under the Swann name. Along the way they share challenges, setbacks and eventually an immense fortune.

As now, the secret of Swann's success is building an efficient and competitive business that is ahead of its time and is essential to the success of others. Swann sees that while  railways  are a fundamental part of the game-changing industrial revolution, they cannot always provide door to door delivery. He sets up an extensive and complex country-wide network of horse drawn transportation to take materials and goods between the railhead and factories up and down the country, sometimes on appalling roads and gradients.

Henrietta, as well as being a wife and mother to an ever increasing brood of small Swanns, is the financial wizard who helps Adam to succeed. While the business is essentially a family one, much of its success is due to finding the right staff in the right place and giving them every incentive to perform and develop the business.

This is a fascinating and outstanding novel about exciting times in economic and social development throughout Victorian England. The next novels in the series - -  [[ASIN:B003L203B0 Theirs Was the Kingdom (Swann Family Saga)]] and [[ASIN:B003L203GA Give Us This Day (God Is an Englishman)]] - - bring the younger Swanns into the business and they face the next challenges as the face of road freight transport changes from horse drawn to motorised delivery.

The Swann family saga is only one of several important English family sagas written by Delderfield, including The Horseman Riding By and To Serve Them All Our Days, both of which became popular BBC mini-series.

This is a beloved novel by one of my favourite authors. I first read this book (the first in the Swann family saga trilogy) in the UK the early 1970's when it was first published. I read it again with continued enjoyment over 30 years later and was delighted to see it featured recently as a Kindle Daily Deal so I can now afford to keep a copy with me at all times.

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