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38 of 40 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...
Published on 23 Jan 2004 by devey2001

versus
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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 7 months ago by Javed


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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most certainly a classic, 23 Jan 2004
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.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfectly pitched, beautiful writing, 16 Nov 2010
By 
Katie Stevens "Ygraine" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most moving stories I've read, 5 Jan 2010
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.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emotionally-restrained and true, 30 Jan 2010
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and disturbing!, 24 Jun 2010
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!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent value, 16 April 2013
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Book arrived promptly. Intriguing story. Read it twice as it had quite an unusual style. Have recommended book to others.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heart breaking, 31 Jan 2013
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A strange tale that took me a while to get into but once engaged with the text I felt it rip at my heart with furious emotion. I hate the character of Kitty, adore the working class character of Margaret, and left the novel feeling very sorry for the narrator. For the most part the war is an unspoken void in the text, haunting every sentence and then at the end the full horror of WWI crashes down on you like a wave - you have been warned.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short but intense, 4 Jan 2013
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A cracking little novel full of intense prose that requires full concentration. The ending is rush and too happy ever after. However interesting to look at love from three women's point of view.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Living in another world., 18 Dec 2012
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Written in 1918, this is a very tender and rather poetic account of the return of Chris, a shell-shocked soldier from World War One to the world of weath and luxury created by his beautiful wife and doting cousin. However, his heart is still on Money Island, with Margaret, his first love. Should he be returned to the real world or be allowed to remain happily living in the past? The story is beautifully written though very much a product of its time both in style and content. The portraits of the three women emerge powerfully. Feminists would find find plenty to chew upon here and some of the attitudes to class and wealth would make even those of the palest pink politics gnash their teeth.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Return of the Soldier, 4 Aug 2004
By A Customer
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.
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The Return of a Soldier
The Return of a Soldier by Rebecca West (Paperback - 21 Oct 2010)
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