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4.3 out of 5 stars419
4.3 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 January 2012
This is the story about two soldiers during World War 1 and the women left behind in England who love them. There are five main characters. Riley Purefoy, from a working class background, loves upper class Nadine Waverney despite her mother's disapproval. He volunteers as a soldier at the start of World War 1 - given the choice between volunteering for a year or for the duration of the war, he chooses the latter, because he doesn't want to spend an entire year in the army. His commanding officer will be Peter Locke, who has left his wife Julia and cousin Rose behind in England. While Julia pines for her husband, Rose signs up as a nurse in a hospital specialising in facial reconstructions.

The first half of the book is about the experiences that the five have adapting to the realities of war and the shifts it brings about in their relationships. In the second half, Riley suffers a serious injury which will affect all of the characters in different ways.

I have mixed feelings about this book. It did a very good job of conveying the various facets of war, the experience for those in the trenches, in the hospitals and stranded at home. There were parts that were beautifully written but at other times the choppiness of the narrative became hard to take. I didn't really feel caught up in it until the second half, when it settles down and became (for me) far more involving and moving. The ending is somewhat contrived, but also genuinely satisfying.

The characters could have been better developed. Riley and Nadine's relationship is the central thread, but too often we were told about how they felt for one another rather than feeling it. Rose is a wonderful character, but she is frequently sidelined. Peter is nice enough but less than interesting and his wife Julia is a vapid and tedious character on whom far too much time is wasted. Clearly that couple were included to show a broader canvas of reactions to the war, but they didn't develop in any significant way or add much to the book. Another review here mentions how you can see the author's "workings" as she constructed the story, and that's how I felt also.

If this whets your appetite to read more about how World War 1 changed the role of women in England, I recommend the novel Half of the Human Race.
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on 22 May 2011
I have read quite a few war books and heard a tale end interview of the author of this book on the radio and was inspired to buy it. Am so glad I did. It is a rich story of the horrors of war but told from a very human aspect. It is not a documentary of WWI with dates and places, albeit its a full factual account. It is how as people, ordinary people fared in the war and the horrors they faced and the loves they lost. I absolutely loved it and cannot stop thinking about Major Locke, Rose, Julia, Nadine and ofcourse Riley. The book made me cry - and in the middle - not at the end. It is written with such strong emotion and pathos that I, who have never reviewed a book before decided I must review this one. Please read it, as although it is a story, what you learn from this story is far greater than a factual account of what happened in this awful awful war. The characters are so plausible and their incredible bravery makes me so proud to be British. I hope the writer gets the credit she deserves for this, as it truly is thought-provoking, heart rendering and probably even more corny expressions used in these reviews but which are completely needed here!
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on 4 August 2011
The front cover of this book, reminiscent of yet another beach chick-flick read, nearly put me off. Fortunately with the encouragement of a close friend, I launched into one of the best books I've read this year. So often novels set during the First World War dwell on the painful minutiae of trench-life, with characters taking second place in the spin of a narrative dominated by bloody gore. In contrast this novel pushes the characters to the fore, with piercing characterisation and poignancy. Best of all it is far from predictable, allowing the reader to turn the pages with an anticipatory appetite for what is to follow.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Great War of 1914-1918 has provided rich pickings for novelists over the years; almost a hundred years after the event, the scale of the horrors and human suffering remain such that hardly a month goes by without the appearance of at least one new story based on events of those times. One would think that by now almost everything that there was to say on the matter had already been said, and many times over, at that; in a sense, it probably has. Certainly, Louisa Young's "My Dear I Wanted To Tell You" brings nothing particularly new to the oeuvre; indeed, many of her themes and her characterisations are so predictable as to border on the hackneyed. But what this particular book may lack in originality it more than makes up for in masterful handling of pace, clear-sighted and poignant portrayal of thought-processes and emotions, a wonderful understanding of the human condition, all married to a flawless grasp of dramatic structure and flow.

The book draws you in from the very first page, and holds you in a vice-like grip right to the very last page. There are times when it is hard even to remember to breathe. When she finally lets you go, it is with a sense of exhilaration as well as exhaustion.

The story is well researched and rich in historical detail but this is always kept properly subservient to the main narrative; Louisa Young always keeps her characters well to the foreground, never allowing the historical fact and scale of the events themselves to take over -- a mistake all too often made in books of this kind. "My Dear I Wanted to Tell You" operates first and foremost at a fundamentally human level, bringing home the truth that in those times there were a great deal more (and more important) battles fought daily in people's minds than in the mud of Flanders, and that the casualties of war on this scale extend well beyond those killed or maimed in the fighting. It also has a lot to say about the endurance and resilience of the human spirit (as well as a fair amount about how fragile that can be too) and the dangerous comfort to be found in lies, both to oneself and to loved ones.

Absolutely first rate.
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on 2 May 2014
My first review, so firstly, please forgive me if this isn't very fluent, but secondly, take it that I am doing so because this book seemed special to me.

It will be the centenary of the start of WW1 later this year, so I chose this book, which starts out as a touching love story between two people who will be greatly affected by the war. The time in which it it set is well described and I found interesting how different society was then to how it is now.

I like stories which turn out to be different to what one expected, and this does. I won't spoil it for you by going in to that here. Suffice to say that we don't lose track of the love story, which is told in a believable way, so it is a 'woman's book,' and, the hardships on the front are also dealt with in a very involving way, so it is a 'man's book.' It is an adult book, which I would suggest is suitable for readers over 14. I don't really like warnings on books and films, but it is worth mentioning that the 'F' word gets quite a few outings.

The way it is written tells the reader what happens, as well as how people feel as it happens to them, in a very affecting manner. As more important events occur Ms. Young slows the narrative right down and we almost revel in the thoughts and emotions of the protagonists. I felt myself drawn in and sometimes even unable to read more, due to the tears in my eyes, but they weren't all tears of sadness.

The book seems to have been well researched, and is beautifully written. There were just a few times, as I read it, that I thought it was just too syrupy, but even then it was very readable.

The kind of book you like to lend to people because you hope it will bring pleasure.

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on 23 March 2012
This novel is ultimately a romance but so much more. It certainly doesn't romanticise the horrors of war. You will be totally gripped by the characters dilemmas. Riley and Nadine are unforgettable and I am delighted to read that Louisa Young is planning a sequel. As others have said, you will be gripped by and traumatised by this novel. It is made so much more poignant when you know that many of the characters actually existed and many others are based on real people. It is rare for me to cry when reading but this book made me cry at the horrors these young men - boys really - had to face. And also thinking of the young women coping with nursing men with horrific wounds. One of the quotes on the back says 'Birdsong for the new millennium'. Being a huge fan of Birdsong I was sceptical but it is true. It inspires the same emotional attachment to the characters and they will stay with you long after you have finished the book.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 21 May 2014
Beginning in Edwardian London, Louisa Young's fourth novel focuses on Riley Purefoy, an attractive, young working-class boy, who meets the well-to-do bohemian Waveney family after a mishap in the park near to their beautiful Georgian house. Riley is taken back to the Waveney home and is soon taken under their wing, making friends with the children, Noel and Nadine, and working as an artist's model and assistant for a family friend, painter Sir Alfred Pleasant. Sir Alfred, keen to support Riley in his quest to improve himself, invites him to live in his home, allows him access to his library and pays for his education. As the years pass, Riley and Nadine become particularly close and by the time they are in their late teens, and the First World War has begun, they have fallen in love with one another. However, Nadine's mother makes it clear that Riley is not the right class for her daughter, and her objections, plus an embarrassing incident with a young artist friend, encourage a confused Riley to join up with the hopes of becoming a 'proper' man who is worthy of Nadine. In Belgium, Riley comes under the command of Captain Peter Locke, a sensitive musical man, who takes a liking to Riley and is keen to see him promoted. War at the front line, however, is worse than Riley could ever have imagined and in order to cope with the horrors he is bombarded with daily, where he "walks on corpses and breathes death" he tries to shut himself off and exist in an almost hypnotic state focusing only on what has to be done. When he writes to Nadine, who has now become a VAD nurse, to explain his feelings, she responds with warmth and understanding and when the pair meet up for three days' leave, they are keen to explore their deep and passionate feelings for one another.

Peter Locke meanwhile, verging on a nervous breakdown, arrives home in Sidcup to beautiful, but shallow and seemingly self-absorbed wife, Julia, whose only aim in life appears to be to keep herself lovely for her husband, and who is bitterly disappointed when Peter cannot bring himself to put the war behind him and enjoy his leave with her. (Shades of Rebecca West's Return of the Soldier (Modern Library)). Also in Sidcup is Peter's cousin, Rose, an independent and very resourceful young woman working as a nurse at the Queen's Hospital under the pioneering plastic surgeon, Major Gillies (a real-life character). And it is to Queen's Hospital that Riley Purefoy arrives after half of his face is blown off when he returns to the front. Under Rose's care and the skilled hands of Major Gillies, who reconstructs the lower half of his horrifically injured face, Riley's outward injuries slowly begin to heal, but he is convinced that his relationship with Nadine must end to avoid her wasting her life on him out of pity. And so he writes her a letter ...

This is a very readable story and one which I started and finished practically in one sitting and, although I will say that I found parts of this novel a little too romantically sentimental for me, Louisa Young's historian qualifications and excellent research, evident in her vivid descriptions of the terrible conditions experienced by soldiers at the front, and her fascinating information on the pioneering work on facial reconstruction carried out by Gillies and his team, lifted this novel to something with more depth and readability than the average romantic saga. Louisa Young was also careful to show the reader how the war continued to affect her characters after their traumatic experiences and this aspect of the story, I believe, is continued in the author's sequel to this novel: The Heroes' Welcome which is due to be released very soon.
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on 15 May 2012
You know when sometimes you read a book and think `why did I waste my valuable time reading that' and then you read a book that lives with you long after you have finished it, and in fact you get cross as you do not want it to end, "My Dear I Wanted to Tell You" is that kind of book. Fantastic read...........I love a book that you can not put down and this is one of them. A real vivid portrayal of The Great War of 1914-1918 juxtaposed with the love story which keeps the reader interested to see how the love story develops (a bit like Captain Corelli's Mandolin). Like Louis de Bernières, Louisa Young writes in very much in the same way. This book would be a great for studying for A Level and reading groups.
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on 16 April 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is one of those books you will read to the last page to find out what happens even though it's a bit of a struggle sometimes. That doesn't mean that "My Dear..." is badly written, far from it. The author is delicate in her handling of human relationships and emotions, and paints vivid enticing characters. It's just the plot doesn't always follow particularly well, and the ending in particular for me was a little too 'pat'. I'd have liked to have understood more about the motivations of Peter and Julia, a married couple, and I felt that in particular Julia's troubles were somewhat sidelined as she fought her own private war.

What this book does is reminds you of how life went on behind WW1 and indeed after it, and it's rare that a book does this. It also looks at the role of women during wartime, something which I hadn't read before apart from in factual accounts. Despite its flaws, I enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in life before, during and after the Great War.
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on 24 August 2012
Others have commented on the books content and theme so I won't repeat that. I found the book absorbing, well researched, well written and engaging from beginning until the end. The only thing that I didnt really like was the title.It is rather unimaginative and doesnt draw one in to what is a stimulating and imaginative novel of a a very high calibre. I am not sure how anyone could give this book less than a 4 star rating but I guess some people would find fault with the gates of paradise!
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