First published back in June of 2020, British author Richard Ayre’s novel ‘A Life Eternal’ saw his writing move into historical fiction, with the delivery of a character-driven tale about a man experiencing eternal life through the entirety of the twentieth century.

DLS Synopsis:
Rob Deakin had signed up with the army just two days after the First World War broke out. It had been the 6th August 1914 – his eighteenth birthday. Since then, he’d seen the war through and done his part to the point that he’d risen to the position of Sergeant.

However, whilst fighting on the battlefield, Deakin had been mortally wounded by three bullets that had torn into him, rupturing his lungs. He’d been dragged away from the battlefield on a cart and dumped at a field hospital where he was bandaged and as good as left to die. And that was where the medic found him. The medic who rested his hand on Deakin’s chest, and in doing so, changed Robert Deakin’s life forever.

The next morning Deakin has almost completely recovered from his wounds. Twelve-hours ago he was on death’s door with little chance of making it through the night. Now he was awake, alive, and mobile. His wounds having miraculously healed with only the mildest of marks remaining.

Soon after that the war came to an end. Deakin had fought for four-and-a-half years in a war that had done nothing except kill and maim millions of innocents. He had left Rothbury as an immature boy and had returned as someone no longer suited for civilian life. The war had changed him and changed his perspective. Upon returning to his hometown, he now felt lost.

His beloved sister had succumbed to the Spanish Flu, leaving Deakin with no family. He’d returned from a war that should have seen him dead. He’d survived where many, many souls had fallen. And in doing so, he felt truly alone.

So, he picked up his bags and left Rothbury, to start a new life. Start over again somewhere new.

Captain Jonathan Greene had offered him a job at his family estate in Hampshire, working as his gamekeeper. It was a start. Something new to begin his life over again with.

What follows however, is a life that extends far beyond a normal lifetime. Something happened when that strange dark-eyed Medic touched Deakin. Something that affected the rest of Deakin’s long, long life.

Rob Deakin had been made immortal. A gift or a curse – either way, he had no choice in what happened. It just was. Now there was something residing inside of him, something that changed him, and it would change everything for him.

What follows is an existence like no other. One packed with the joy, hurt and strife, as the world around him continues to change. Rob Deakin will experience and bear witness to it all. The love, the laughter, the loss, the pain, and the seemingly endless, endless, suffering.

But he needs to know why this has happened to him. The answer surely rests with the Medic. But so much time has now passed since that brief encounter. And as each year passes by, Deakin feels something within him is dying, to be replaced by a cold, festering, bitter hatred.

He can feel his humanity gradually slipping away. For a man who has an eternal life, time nevertheless feels like it is running out…

DLS Review:
It’s been a day since I finished reading the book and I’m now writing this review. A day since I turned the last page of Rob Deakin’s journey and closed my copy of ‘A Life Eternal’ for the last time. Since finishing the book, so much of the story has lingered on in my mind. Writing the above synopsis just brought back such vivid memories of the heart-wrenching story Ayre gave us to experience. The extended lifetime with all its incredible ups and downs, which I had voyeuristically observed so eagerly.

To say this book moved me would be an understatement. From the very first page I was sucked into the very fabric of the tale. Invested in Deakin and the invisible pathway that stretched out before him. I felt a part of this great expanse of time that was so beautifully, so lovingly woven into the story, as I followed Deakin through over a century of monumental shifts and changes in the world. 

Essentially this is the story of one man and his extended, incredible life. However, the backdrop of the book becomes such an important aspect to the rich tapestry that also makes the tale. You see, the novel is firmly embedded in history. A history we see played out before our eyes throughout the length of the story. From World War One, The Prohibition era, Word War Two, the Vietnam War, to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and so on. This historical backdrop effortlessly bleeds into the unfolding storyline of Deakin’s life, giving it a sense of time, placement and ultimately a believability to it all.

For this historical piece, Ayre has absolutely played to his strengths, and then nailed the execution to perfection. Ayre is a history teacher. A damn passionate one at that. And his enthusiasm for the subject matter is evident in the richness of its existence within the text, rather than a bombardment of dates and historical facts. That perfect balance for a truly engaging tale has been met. A sense of historical positioning with a believable existence, interwoven within a magnificently engrossing storyline.

You’re no doubt sensing my adoration for this novel by now. It’s true – I poured through the pages of this tale with an insatiable thirst for wanting to see and experience more of Deakin’s life. This is not just down to the strength of the plot and the beautifully crafted characterisation within, but also with the writing of the tale too. Ayre has written the entire thing from the perspective of Rob Deakin, as if the character himself is telling the story to you, remembering all those events and reliving them as he recalls his life to you.

Through this literary device, Ayre has been able to layer the emotional journey of the tale with a thick bedding that pulls on your heartstrings throughout. It’s impossible not to feel connected to Deakin, to simply adore his love and commitment to Madeline (his one true love), and to feel such desperation for his tragic plight.

Essentially this is a piece of character-driven historical fiction, submerged in the rawest of human emotions. It’s a tale that encapsulates the absolute peaks and troughs of life. Exaggerated here through the echoes of history, but essentially a tale story that embodies everything that it is to feel human.

I won’t ruin the ending for you by letting slip any spoilers. However, what I will say is that Ayre does the novel proud with how he concludes a tale that must have undoubtedly had him pondering how the hell he would bring it all to a fitting conclusion which doesn’t feel forced. With the novel’s ending he’s achieved this wrapping up absolutely perfectly. Flawlessly, considering I write this with the slightest of tears in the corner of my eye, remembering those final few chapters.

I cannot recommend this novel enough. It’s quite simple a joy to read from start to end.

The novel runs for a total of 274 pages.

© DLS Reviews


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