Rawson-Clew's family is on a higher social and financial plain than Julia's and in the normal course of events the two of them would never have become acquainted. Circumstances, however, have brought them both to Holland and a friendship develops, first due to proximity and boredom, then from a genuine interest in, and liking for, each other. What is interesting about their relationship is that it grows and deepens without the complication of romantic feelings. Throughout their time in Holland, neither considers the other in that way, for a number of reasons. One of these is their differing positions in rank, and another is age; Rawson-Clew is considerably older than Julia. And then, of course, there's her impossible family... they both know without saying a word that anything beyond friendship is untenable, and govern themselves accordingly. Because they're not attempting to impress each other romantically, they are open and honest with each other, discussing everything under the sun- except their actual reasons for being in Holland in the first place.
Some of their most interesting conversations center on philosophic topics such as the nature of honour and morality. For example, Julia points out that the Van Heigens live very honourable and upright lives, but that it has never occurred to them to do otherwise. Is it, she questions, really a sign of morality if they simply lack the imagination or motivation to behave badly? She also suggests that there might also be a kernel of this in his own sense of honour, asking him how much of how he behaves is reflexive rather than reasoned, because of his upbringing as an English gentleman. Rawson-Clew admits that there is a certain automatic quality to some of his actions; there are simply some things one does not do. This leads them to discuss whether it is more honourable if a person behaves well unthinkingly as a matter of course, or if one is tempted to do the wrong thing, yet in the end chooses to do what's right. It also leads to a discussion of what constitutes moral behaviour, and if the morality of a deed or action depends on the motivation behind it. Julia, for example, has come to Holland with the intention of getting one of the blue daffodil bulbs through any means necessary,in order to clear her family's debt. She has deduced, though of course they don't discuss it, that Rawson-Clew is there to get the chemical formula for the explosive, also through any means necessary. Is the action- in this case, stealing something- rendered more or less moral if it is done for one's country rather than for personal gain? It is these sorts of questions that they discuss, and these conversations provide fascinating insights into their characters, as well as provide the reader with the opportunity to mull over these issues personally.
As for Julia, the men in her life up to this point have all been weaklings. Her father is a selfish and morally weak person who has never been the head of his family; Johnny Gillat is well meaning and good-hearted, but childlike and unable to cope with life's problems. Julia has always felt the need to protect and care for them, rather than the other way around. Meeting Rawson-Clew, a strong, competent, honourable man, is something of a revelation to her because he is not what she's used to. When the two of them become embroiled in scandal, Julia naturally attempts to shield Rawson-Clew from the consequences, because that's what she's always done. She is surprised by Rawson-Clew's irritation with this, and shocked by his insistence of taking responsibility for the situation- it's not what she's used to in her family. Then, back in the bosom of her not-so-loving family, recalling Rawson-Clew's intellect, decency, and honour, and contrasting it with what- and who- she's dealing with now, Julia awakens to how she actually feels about him.
In conclusion, The Good Comrade has a perfectly serviceable plot and it maintains interest throughout, but the best thing about the novel is the development of the relationship between Julia and Rawson-Clew. They are two independent, intelligent and rather solitary individuals from very different backgrounds who gradually and somewhat warily become friends and then something more. Their conversations provide insight into their opinions, values and tastes which, despite having been arrived at through very different means, are in the end quite similar. Also, the topics which they mull over and debate are ones which still remain relevant and worthy of thought and discussion today. I really enjoyed the book and will without question seek out more writings by this author.