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promising but not engrossing
on 22 March 2011
The First World War has been an era that has provided writers with inspiration for some very moving and poignant fiction. This latest offering by Louisa Young, follows the men on the frontline and the women they leave behind.
Riley Purefoy signs up in attempt to escape from a broken heart after Mrs Waveney makes it clear he isn't good enough for her daughter, Nadine who is destined for an advantageous marriage. As his luck continues during the war and the rising death toll means he is promoted fast, he begins to see the war as an opportunity to prove his worth to her disapproving family.
Fighting alongside Riley, is Peter Locke. A man of wealth and high standing who, swallowing the propaganda demonising the Hun, joins to protect his new wife. After having newly married life abruptly interrupted, Julia Locke waits anxiously in her new home contemplating how her preparation of becoming a wife didn't include life without a husband. Embracing the new opportunities is Peter's cousin Rose who after accepting life as a spinster suddenly finds herself with work and purpose in her life.
The book explores most of the issues that the war uncovered in Britain, especially the class system and women's rights but the character's seem slightly stereotyped which spoilt any attempt to be unique.
For those keen on World War One fiction the story has essences of Atonement and Birdsong but isn't quite as powerful. Perhaps due to the characters not as multi-dimensional as you hope but there is also some difficulty getting completely engrossed as Young's writing style includes a variety of speech and thoughts in one swift flurry making it quite difficult to follow.
Many will love this book and appreciate the experience of being transported back to one of the most interesting and tragic periods of history. However, there are other books written during and after the era which I'd recommend before this.