The lives of two very different couples - an officer and his aristocratic wife, and a young soldier and his childhood sweetheart - are irrevocably intertwined and forever changed in this stunning World War I epic of love and war.
At 18 years old, working-class Riley Purefoy and - posh - Nadine Waveney have promised each other the future, but when war erupts across Europe, everything they hold to be true is thrown into question. Dispatched to the trenches, Riley forges a bond of friendship with his charismatic commanding officer, Peter Locke, as they fight for their survival. Yet it is Locke's wife, Julia, who must cope with her husband's transformation into a distant shadow of the man she once knew. Meanwhile, Nadine and Riley's bonds are tested as well by a terrible injury and the imperfect rehabilitation that follows it, as both couples struggle to weather the storm of war that rages about them.
Moving among Ypres, London, and Paris, this emotionally rich and evocative novel is both a powerful exploration of the lasting effects of war on those who fight - and those who don't - and a poignant testament to the enduring power of love.
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Just read it!! Or rather, listen!
I must confess that when I first started listening to this book, I thought that author Louisa Young had attempted to compete with the extraordinary novels by Pat Barker. The themes were somewhat familiar--unrequited love between the classes, women wanting to study to study art at the Slade, only to be told it wasn't proper, putting created characters amidst real people and true events, and the Great War turning the known world on its head. But I quickly saw that, like the characters in this fine novel, that I must not fall prey to assumptions. It is a beautifully written novel about beauty, convention, war, and love.
The cover looks a bit like a romance novel--and romance there is. On the lower half of the cover art, it looks like a gritty war novel. It is, indeed, that. I found this book so intriguing, I couldn't stop listening. And I wanted to stop, because I wanted to savor it. I wanted it not to end.
I believe this is a book that will be loved by readers of the aforementioned Pat Barker (Life Class, The Regeneration Series, etc). Also fans of Audrey Neffenegger, Ian McEwan, Michael Chabon, Jacqueline Winspeare, Charles Todd, Amy Tan, and, just to confuse you, fans of THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN and THE SHIFTING FOG.
There are so many. The history buff in me loved the period and was fascinated by the details about the dawn of facial reconstruction. I loved watching Riley, the main character, come to terms with his life after the war. And his hard-won meeting, at last, with the girl who got away. Or rather, the girl he sent away.
He is outstanding!!!! One of the best narrations I've ever listened to!!!
Since leaving Downton Abbey, Stevens has worked hard to separate himself from the all-too-affable Mathew Crawley. Thank God he made this book one of his projects! He is perfectly brilliant. I am so impressed with his range, of bringing individual voice to each of the characters, both men and women, old and young. He is simply terrific. And part of the reason I kept listening, after my initial "Uh oh, is someone trying to copy Pat Barker?" moment. The writing is fantastic, but Dan Stevens was the icing on that cake.
Let's see...WAR AND PEACE is already taken. So...
I actually think the chosen title is the perfect one, because all the characters are hiding things in order to protect their loved ones. But it also makes the book sound like more of a romance novel than a literary work about love, war, and redemption.
Read it and review it. I really want to hear what others have to say. I plan to recommend this book to everyone I know. Except maybe my husband, who would rather read a good thriller.
- Annie M. "Say something about yourself!"
Amazing what a good narrator can do for a book