Book Review: The Kissing Gates by Mackenzie Ford
The Kissing Gates by MacKenzie Ford
Set during the Great War, The Kissing Gates opens with the extraordinary Christmas truce of 1914. From Christmas Eve to Boxing Day, ordinary soldiers on both sides of the war laid down their arms in defiance of the orders from High Command. They swapped cigars, buttons and badges before returning to their trenches. English solider Hal strikes up a conversation with German Lieutenant Wilhelm and learns that Wilhelm is in love with an English girl, Sam. Hal promises to give Sam a photo of Wilhelm in his uniform if he makes it home. Wounded in action, Hal does make it home, but when he sees Sam he also falls in love with her. The photograph remains hidden and therein follows a compelling love story. Sam slowly comes to grow fond of Hal while always yearning for the father of her child, Wilhelm. Hal is essentially a decent and honest man, but he makes the choice not to tell Sam that he has met Sam’s lost German lover. But can their fledging relationship survive when at its foundation is his deceit?
The Kissing Gates is much more than just a love story with a moral dilemma at its heart, however. When Hal begins working gathering intelligence, it also becomes a fascinating insight into how German newspapers and other documents offered up clues that were follow up by British intelligence. The novel also captures the essence of the time, of the changing attitudes towards women’s roles, and the difficulties of families adjusting to the loss of loved ones. I’d highly recommend this novel to anyone who likes a good historical read. It is a novel about the consequence of choice – and a man at war with himself. The settings and characters are beautifully written, and the ending of the book, while incredibly poignant, made me dwell on the moral aspects of love and war for some time after.