News From The Home Front
By Rachael de Moravia
An insider's account of life as a military wife; of life on the home front, in the fall-out zone of the modern Royal Air Force
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NEWS FROM THE HOME FRONT is an insider's account of life as a military wife; of life on the home front, in the fall-out zone of the modern Royal Air Force.
It's a memoir of my double life – a military wife who's also a journalist and writer. It’s a book about navigating irreconcilable conflict: of my own personal struggle, and of a world constantly at war.
It’s a meditation on what it is to be an independent, creative, artistic woman in the 21st Century – who’s also trying to play the traditional role of wife to a man in an old-fashioned institution, with the all the demands of etiquette and regulation that the military still upholds.
It’s a story about being unable to conform – despite desperately wanting to fit in.
The RAF was founded in 1918, towards the end of World War I. Almost a hundred years on there are very few female voices discussing the military from the inside, past or present.
The public perception of RAF wives is that we’re either married to a gun-toting maniac, or Biggles, or Prince William. My book smashes these stereotypes.
My husband was a junior officer when we married in September 2001. The nation was at peace as I walked up the aisle, but the world was at war before the honeymoon was over.
My new husband subsequently left for Iraq, and then Afghanistan. In all, he’s completed nine tours of duty in the past 15 years.
Keeping a marriage alive under these circumstances is tough, especially with the added pressure of becoming parents. Producing three children between deployments required military-style planning.
Military bases are hotbeds for gossip, rivalry and infidelity. Living on ‘the patch’ is like living at work, with hundreds of colleagues as neighbours: fences are low and tensions are high.
Being a military wife is isolating and lonely at times. There are reunions and homecomings. And there’s culture shock – of suddenly sharing your bed, your home, your children and your life with someone who’s been missing (often with little contact) for six months. Longing for your husband to return safely, and then struggling to cope when he does is devastating.
Military wives provide a barometer by which we can measure women’s changing, or unchanging, place in society. I’ve read letters and diaries from the wives and lovers of airmen in both World Wars and the Falklands and I’ve found that humanity is constant: a hundred years on and we’re still loving, we’re still grieving, we’re still fighting.
I also write about other authors, like Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath, who interrogate women’s lives and the wider notions of society, patriarchy and domesticity. Indeed, this book is based on my correspondence with one of these authors and my editor, Rachel Cusk.
News from the Home Front is written in fragments; snapshots of military life. Every vignette is themed, but they do not appear in chronological order. Because military life involves frequent – and often long – periods of separation from loved ones, I wanted to embed the fragmented nature of daily life in the structure of my work. Life does not run seamlessly in the forces – time is not a linear concept in my experience – and it does not appear so in News from the Home Front.
Similarly, the location of each chapter shifts and moves, mirroring the lack of control that military families face with regard to where they live: I have been forced to move to new locations with as little as three weeks notice. The narrative – constantly uprooted and displaced – is unnerving at first, but as the book progresses it becomes clear that is doesn’t actually matter where the story is set: the joys and horrors of life are relentless and continue no matter where you are.
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