This is the second of two novels by the late Diane (Ruth) Pettis, who died in mid-2008. Beautifully written, it deals with the devastating impact of World War II on George, a New Zealand soldier who spent four years in Italy and Africa, his wife Ellen, and their family.
George returns home from the war traumatised by his experiences and retreats into a rage-filled silence. Ellen, meanwhile, has had a relationship with another man and borne a child. But not until the mid-fifties does a desperately unhappy Ellen snap and finally leave her husband. Years later, her daughter travels through Italy trying to make sense of her father's experiences.
The First Touch of Light is a powerful story of war and grief and loss. It is also a New Zealand love story, and an engaging portrait of a marriage under impossible stress as a result of the experiences of war.