34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most certainly a classic
Every now and then I will read a novel that makes me wonder why I don't try to cut down on the other things in my life and dedicate more time to reading. The Return of the Soldier is one such book. It is to be frank a masterpiece which will greatly affect how you look upon the world and reflect on your own attitudes to life and love.
The story is simple but the book is...
Published on 23 Jan 2004 by devey2001
2.0 out of 5 stars Hmmmm......:-(
Didn't quite enjoy this book. Maybe it was the style it was written in. Very difficult to get your head round it. Although it was in good condition and delivery came on time.
Published 3 months ago by Javed
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most certainly a classic,
This review is from: The Return Of The Soldier (VMC) (Paperback)Every now and then I will read a novel that makes me wonder why I don't try to cut down on the other things in my life and dedicate more time to reading. The Return of the Soldier is one such book. It is to be frank a masterpiece which will greatly affect how you look upon the world and reflect on your own attitudes to life and love.
The story is simple but the book is far from a simple story. It tells of a shell shocked soldier Chris who escapes the horrors of Flanders by blotting out the last fifteen years of his life and returning to a passionate love affair of the past. He has no recollection of what has occurred since, of his marriage to the gloriously shallow and vain Kitty, of his having to take on the responsibilities of providing the wealth to allow his family to continue their affluent existence, to furnish Baldry Court with beautiful things, of the death of his father and of his own son.
But the story is not his; it belongs to the three women of his life: Kitty his wife, Jenny his childhood friend who has always loved him, and the now dowdy Margaret whose subsequent hardships in life since he left hers fifteen years ago have taken their toll on her. But more than anything it is the story of class attitudes, of England when a stiff upper lip was the order of the day and when “duty” mattered. A story of the contrasts between those who are not able to do as they wish and those sheltered from the realities of life by having all the comforts of life provided to them. It’s a story about those who have “partaken of the inalienable dignity of a requited love”, of those who have known the love of another and those whose souls have been left bitter by the lack of such. It’s a bygone age when England countryside really was the garden of Eden and the full realities of the 20th Century had not been realised.
The book is full of wonderful insights and memorable passages such as when Kitty is to meet the doctor who will “cure” Chris and return him not only to the present but also back to Flanders and the horrors of the war. It is Jenny who as she begins to see the ugliness of Kitty’s sole reflects, “Beautiful women of her type lose, in this matter of admiration alone, their tremendous sense of class distinction: they are obscurely aware that it is their mission to flash the jewel of their beauty before all men, so that they desire it and work to get the wealth to buy it. And thus be seduced by a present appetite to a tilling of the earth that serves the future.” The novel is short but it is a big story and one I have no hesitation in recommending.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most moving stories I've read,
This review is from: The Return Of The Soldier (VMC) (Paperback)I'm 14 but although I struggled with the language, The Return of the Soldierhas to be one of the best books I've read in the last four months. The morals behind the tale are unforgettable and really thought provoking as well. The last page had me almost in tears and I reread it just to ascertain that I had the end correct. I haven't been able to get it out of my head all this past week and I doubt I ever will. It isn't the easier of books but if you concentrate on the storyline, you soon forget the language and are drawn into the tale. I would recommend it for anyone of all ages.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfectly pitched, beautiful writing,
This review is from: The Return Of The Soldier (VMC) (Paperback)This bittersweet novel has a deceptively simple story which is brought to life through prose which is more like poetry at times; rich and full and evocative without ever being purple or pompous. It is charged with emotion, both amusing and heartbreaking, and I'm green with envy that Rebecca West wrote this when she was only twenty-four. It may be a quick read, but it's a very intense one.
It's not a word I use often, but the writing is just perfect. The snobbery with which Kitty and Jenny greet Margaret is sometimes cruel: 'She was repulsively furred with neglect and poverty, as even a good glove that has dropped down behind a bed in a hotel and has lain undisturbed for a day or two is repulsive when the chambermaid retrieves it from the dust and fluff.' (p. 25) However, it is also funny, reflecting on Kitty and Jenny rather than Margaret. I couldn't help but laugh when Jenny remarks on `her deplorable umbrella, her unpardonable raincoat` (p. 33). Her writing is equally insightful and direct when emotional matters are in focus: 'There was to be a finality about his happiness which usually belongs only to loss and calamity; he was to be as happy as a ring cast into the sea is lost, as a man whose coffin has lain for centuries beneath the sod is dead.' (p. 180)
Rebecca West's use of pronouns is masterful: before Chris returns home having lost all memory of the past fifteen years, Jenny always uses `we' to refer to Kitty and herself. Even though Kitty is his wife and Jenny his cousin, both women seem to occupy the same role in making life happy and comfortable and beautiful for Chris, as they are united in their love for him. After Chris returns, Jenny talks about herself separately from Kitty, so not only is the bond between Kitty and her husband severed but also that between Kitty and Jenny. This cleverly emphasises the loneliness and isolation of Chris' erstwhile wife as, without the narrator's `we', she almost disappears from the novel, leaving the reader feeling as guilty and compassionate as Margaret does when we see her standing mournfully outside the nursery clutching her little dog, looking in at the woman her husband loves. In fact, I started out wanting to see more of Kitty and wishing her character would develop, but I very quickly realised that I wasn't supposed to know her and her absence and immaturity were deliberate and perfectly calculated.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and disturbing!,
This review is from: The Return Of The Soldier (VMC) (Paperback)This is an engaging and disturbing story of love lost and found, and lost again and of youth gone to never return. The message conveyed that the only power to shake us to accept the social norms enforced on us is death will stay with me for a long time!
The characters are strong and the plot is gripping. I loved every page of it!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emotionally-restrained and true,
This review is from: The Return Of The Soldier (VMC) (Paperback)Set in 1916, Chris is wounded in France and, shell-shocked, loses his memory. Fifteen years are wiped out and he becomes again the twenty-one year old boy just graduated from university falling in love for the first time, rather than the thirty-six year old man with a wife and responsibilities which he really is. Told through the voice of his devoted cousin, this is a simple and simply-told story which yet is hugely resonent and deeply moving.
There are no literary tricks to the narration, no self-conscious flourishes: and, as readers, we are drawn close inside a detailed and intimate story, that is both emotionally-restrained and feels very true.
The three women - Kitty, the beautiful wife; Jenny, the devoted cousin; Margaret, the lower-class lover - are the focus of the book, and West dissects them and their social places with a scalpel, sharp and accurate.
The Freudian psychology which imbues the end of the story feels a little old-fashioned now, but would have been relatively fresh at the time of writing (1918-19).
Overall this is a much deeper story than appears on the simple surface: the return refers not just to the physical return of Chris, but also his return to his place in the social world of the time and the reassumption of all the responsibilities and privileges that go with that. And his reluctance and stoicism in the face of those is a sad indictment of what is meant (and means?) to be a man.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent value,
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This review is from: The Return of the Soldier (Paperback)Book arrived promptly. Intriguing story. Read it twice as it had quite an unusual style. Have recommended book to others.
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Return of the Soldier,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Return Of The Soldier (VMC) (Paperback)I read this book in order to prepare for teaching the A2 level English Literature course. Most of the texts we teach focus on the experience of life in the front. I was interested in this text because it focuses on the lives of the women at home. Ideas about what it means to be 'male' are addressed, as is the subject of shellshock. When West wrote this novel in 1919 she was clearly aware of the embarrassment and shame associated with mental health problems: the returning soldier's wife's reaction to his 'illness' is devoid of any sympathy for him; she's totally focused on how it affects her.
There are 3 women in the novel who all love the soldier: they come from differing social backgrounds; West makes much of the snobbery and patronising attitude that existed in the war years. The final irony, though, is that it is the woman from the lower class who can 'cure' the soldier.
It is a short book but still packs an emotional punch. Good for anyone interested in relationships; particularly so for students of English A level who need a quick read but plenty to write about in terms of structure and style.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Written, Deftly Composed,
This review is from: The Return of the Soldier (Modern Library Classics) (Kindle Edition)First published when she was twenty-six-years-old, Rebecca West's brief, but beautiful novel 'The Return of the Soldier' tells the story of Captain Chris Bawdry who, during the First World War, is returned home from the Front with shell shock and suffering from partial amnesia. Waiting for his return are three very different women: Kitty, his beautiful, indulged and rather shallow wife; Jenny, his devoted and favourite cousin; and Margaret, an inn-keeper's daughter, whom he was deeply in love with fifteen years earlier, and from whom he parted after a foolish misunderstanding ended their relationship. However, this homecoming will be no ordinary event for Chris, or for the three women who await his return, for Chris's mind is locked in a period of time fifteen years earlier, and he is under the illusion that he is returning to the love of his life, Margaret. But what will his wife Kitty and, indeed, Jenny and Margaret do when he returns?
Although Rebecca West was very young when she wrote 'The Return of the Soldier', she was already an accomplished journalist and committed women's rights campaigner, and this is a beautifully written, taut and deftly composed story, which although deceptively simple on the surface, examines the ripple effects of war on individuals and on society. It's also about truth, deception, class differences, morality, goodness, different kinds of love and about confronting reality. Quite a lot for such a short novel and that is one of the reasons why this is such a particularly good piece of fiction.
2.0 out of 5 stars Hmmmm......:-(,
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This review is from: The Return of the Soldier (Paperback)Didn't quite enjoy this book. Maybe it was the style it was written in. Very difficult to get your head round it. Although it was in good condition and delivery came on time.
5.0 out of 5 stars The experience of 'Shell Shock' - a literary marvel,
This review is from: The Return of the Soldier (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) (Paperback)Rebecca West was probably the first novelist to depict the baffling confusion of "shell shock" for those on the Home Front. And she does it with such a light touch, showing the pain and confusion experienced by the women in the invalid-soldier's life, and also from his past. Most touching is the way West shows the soldier oblivious to his condition; then the weight that seems to descend on his shoulders when the unpalatable truth dawns on him. West's slim book never represents the trenches or warfare, but it conveys so much about suffering.
This edition of Rebecca West's poignant novella is in front of the competition by other publishers due to Sam Hynes's pithy introductory essay. It is no secret that West's story focuses on a traumatised soldier who has had a nervous collapse at the front, and as the author of A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture Hynes has an expert grip on what "shell shock" was, how soldiers behaved, & how their baffled and upset families responded. You finish his essay realising how psychologically and socially accomplished West's novella is.
I'd recommend that you read the book first, then the essay afterward. It gives away a few things that deserve to come as a surprise to the reader. Besides, you go back to the novel and read it again, seeing deeper meanings to the unfolding details. Most important, as Hynes explains, is the seemingly simple, yet cryptic title of the novel which has at once three meanings.
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The Return Of The Soldier (VMC) by Rebecca West (Paperback - 30 Jun 1980)
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