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The Soldier's Return [Paperback]

Melvyn Bragg
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
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Book Description

18 May 2000

'Unsentimental, truthful and wonderful' Beryl Bainbridge, Independent Books of the Year

When Sam Richardson returns in 1946 from the 'Forgotten War' in Burma to Wigton in Cumbria, he finds the town little changed. But the war has changed him, broadening his horizons as well as leaving him with traumatic memories. In addition, his six-year-old son now barely remembers him, and his wife has gained a sense of independence from her wartime jobs. As all three strive to adjust, the bonds of loyalty and love are stretched to breaking point in this taut, and profoundly moving novel.

'An outstandingly good novel...utterly credible, utterly compelling, and very enjoyable' Allan Massie, Scotsman

'Deeply felt, beautifully realised' John Sutherland, Sunday Times

'The first Great War came alive in Faulks's Birdsong; the second Great War, and in particular the Burma campaign, comes very much alive in Melvyn Bragg's The Soldier's Return - wholly absorbing' John Bayley, Evening Standard

'Sympathetic, touching, infinitely believable...This is a highly accomplished novel' D.J. Taylor, Literary Review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; 2 edition (18 May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340751010
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340751015
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 197,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

The end of World War Two has to be one of Britain's most dewy-eyed, rose-tinted memories. Yearned for years in advance--Dame Vera Lynn built an entire career on such yearning--it spelled the end of the anguishing waiting, the terrible deprivations overseas and Johnny asleep in his own little bed again. It takes a good novel to make new all the hackneyed emotion of the moment, and a great one to reveal, without sensationalising, the doubts behind the smiles. In that case, this may be a great novel.

By the time corporal Sam Richardson returns from Burma to his Cumbrian hometown of Wigton, the bunting's long gone, and Sam, like everybody else, wants to get back to normal. But his plans to return to family life with Ellen and six- year-old son Joe don't run smooth. The war has taken away his old job, while Ellen holds down two; Joe's been raised with other men as father-figures; and Sam struggles to repress what he's witnessed out east. In The Soldier's Return Bragg explores the most unsettling of experiences: returning to a normality that's no longer normal. In Sam, with his undemonstrative reserve and irrational suspicions, he creates a man who cannot heal the mental scars of active service. While Bragg affectingly evokes Cumbria in the 40s, with a sure-footed sense of that time and place's idiom, this is no exercise in nostalgia, but a book whose concerns--how to deal with the happy ending of war--are only too resonant today. --Alan Stewart


Unsentimental, truthful and wonderful (Beryl Bainbridge, Sunday Times Books of the Year)

Outstandingly good . . . utterly credible, utterly compelling, and very enjoyable (Allan Massie, Scotsman)

Sympathetic, touching, infinitely believable . . . a highly accomplished novel (D.J. Taylor, Literary Review)

The first Great War came alive in Faulks's Birdsong; the second Great War, and in particular the Burma campaign, comes very much alive in Melvyn Bragg's THE SOLDIER'S RETURN . . . wholly absorbing (John Bayley, Evening Standard)

Deeply felt, beautifully realised (John Bayley, Evening Standard)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensitive and evocative 14 Sep 2000
By A Customer
This was a compelling read. At the same time I wanted to make it last and absorb the atmosphere. It was very evocative of the post-war period and the 3 main protagonists were sympathetically drawn, particularly Ellen. As a woman, I found Bragg's observation of her character particularly sensitive and could easily identify with her emotional turmoil. I think many women found the war years a liberating experience, whereas their soldier husbands dreamed of returning to a peaceful and comfortable marriage. The problems of re-adjustment for the husband, the wife and for the child, are sensitively explored by Bragg in this well-written novel evocative of both time and place.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Moving Novel 6 Jun 2000
As a person whose mother was born and raised in Wigton ( 6 years older than Melvyn Bragg) and whose grandmother owned the bakery shop during the war and lived in the big house between Water St and Market Hill for the rest of her life,I was raised in London but spent my childhood summer holidays running the streets and alleys of Wigton. Bragg took me with him through all these memories with absolute accuracy .Even though my experiences were 20 years after Joes they seemed exactly the same. However, even given this delight it was the movement of the relationships that really makes this book. Sam and Ellen and their entirely different visions and Joe caught up in both. This is a really excellent book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book to return to.. 19 Feb 2001
This was a book club book and so I was required to read it! Not sure I would have naturally leaned toward reading it otherwise.
However - it was a good read. Not a non-stop read but a book that you eagerly returned to time and again. Its images are still in my head several months later - so it must have had an impact! It was not a particularly sentimental novel but comes across as very real - a believeable, non glossy, non tear jerking,reflection of the times.
I loved the style of Mr Bragg and look forward to discovering more of his novels.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old-fashioned tale of post-war life. 22 Sep 2003
Melvyn Bragg's The Soldier's Return is the age-old story of a young man who goes off to World War II and returns to find his world totally changed. Sam Richardson, a young man from rural England, has fought in the Burma campaign in World War II and is a changed man himself. Sam has seen such atrocity that he is now harder and less willing to show a soft side. His son Joe, now five, doesn't know him. His wife has been successful working two modest jobs and does not want to give them up. Sam's exposure to the outside world has shown him how limited his future is in the socially inflexible world of Wigton, while his wife Ellen, in contrast, has been supported by the friendships, traditions, and familiarity of this community, where she knows everyone.
The tensions within the family and within individual characters grow and boil over, as stiff-upper-lip-ishness comes into conflict with the human need to communicate and share. Bragg's dialogue is completely natural, needing only the inflections of a voice to bring it completely to life. His descriptions and his narrative style are simple, as is his choice of vocabulary, so that no reader will have trouble following the various threads of the story while learning much about Cumbria, post-World War II social upheavals, and the kinds of personal problems that may have been typical for many other young soldiers. Like the best of the old-fashioned novels, this is a story of basic values, with characters who grow and change. Mary Whipple
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Richly evocative and atmospheric 4 May 2009
Bragg's novel about the return of his father from the Burmese war is richly evocative of the period. The community of Wigton is the setting for the homecoming and subsequent difficulties faced by Sam and his family, as he struggles to fit back into his old life following the trauma of the war. His wife, Ellen and son Joe are compellingly and sympathetically drawn, but there isn't a trace of sentimentality. The narrative switches between the three characters' consciousnesses, capturing Joe's developing awareness beautifully and maintaining a clear balance between the treatment of Sam and Ellen's struggles and their responses to the situation. The things which remain unsaid dominate and it is Bragg's ability to evoke the feelings which fill the silences or sit behind what is actually said which impresses most. You are left feeling that you have had an authentic insight into this under-reported postwar period.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading 21 Jan 2010
This is a wonderful book. Melvyn Bragg is a really good writer and the dialogue just flows and makes the book very easy to read. It is a poignant slice of social history, a soldier coming back from war after witnessing the horrors of Burma, but because of the stoicism of that generation he is unable to talk about it. He writes about the type of people of my mother's generation, who are sadly with us no more. They were poor, but had strong moral values, courage and a sense of community. He also writes women characters particularly well. He shows how life had changed so much for women when they became more independent when the men were away at war. How difficult that was for both the sexes when they came back to try and make sense of it all. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous 16 April 2009
This was a brilliant book - I read it after 'Remember Me' but wish I had read it before because it provided background to the main character (Bragg?) childhood and family attitudes. It also showed me a child of WW2 what is was like for children, mothers and fathers after the war and how the war had affected everyone not just the soldier, sailor or airman . Some people have never recovered from the trauma.
Have never read Bragg before 'Remember Me' but he is certainly a brilliant writer and will read more of his books in the future and Soldiers Return and Remember me again!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Combine this with a wonderful portrait of Bragg's home town of Wigton...
A very well-crafted book about the challenges of adjusting to post war life after fighting in Burma. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Spanish Flyer
4.0 out of 5 stars If this book does not immediately draw you in then ...
If this book does not immediately draw you in then stick with it because by the end you will want to read the next books in the series to find out happens next.
Published 2 months ago by HaF
4.0 out of 5 stars Next order placed
I brought this for a gift and already they had 'demanded' more from this author, so I'm guessing this is great!
Published 5 months ago by LOUISA BLACK
3.0 out of 5 stars The description on the cover promised much
Presentation and content

I have a different cover than the one pictured here. Authors name in large letters with title subsidiary. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Alexander Kreator
4.0 out of 5 stars Simply and beautifully written
You can feel the tension throughout, so much is said yet in so few words and actions and this book is a masterpiece at that. Read more
Published 10 months ago by J. McDonnell
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow burner
Whilst the book is very well written and brings to the fore the problems of servicement returning to their families after some grim wartime experiences I have found the book rather... Read more
Published 16 months ago by tekapo
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
About a third of the way through and don't want to finish it, hopefully the other two books in the series will be just as good!
Published 18 months ago by MLK
5.0 out of 5 stars Problem of readjustment to civilian life
Excellent example of readjustment to civilian life of soldiers returning from active service, in this case from fighting in Burma by the 'forgotten army'. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Audrey Fisk
3.0 out of 5 stars If you like Catherine Cookson, you'll love this!
Telling the story of a World War 2 soldier, home from the horrors of Burma and struggling to pick up his former life: a wife and child who have a close relationship from which he... Read more
Published on 29 July 2012 by sally tarbox
5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting read
This was the first Melvyn Bragg I had ever read, and I loved it so much that I was inspired to get more of his books straight away. Read more
Published on 13 Jan 2012 by Mrs. V. M. Leonard
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