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A Pride of Poppies: Modern GLBTQI fiction of the Great War Paperback – 29 Apr 2015
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What really struck me, as I read each for the first time, was that so much seems to have changed for the LGBTQIA community in the last hundred years in terms of recognition and decriminalisation of their lifestyles and yet the core of each of the stories still holds true today – that being free to be yourself and love who and how you want can still be one of the hardest tasks in the world.
I cannot, hand on heart, say that each story accurately represents every aspect of the war that it includes, but I wouldn’t expect to be able to. In fiction the story is always the most important part and anyone who picks up a work of fiction expecting cold hard fact is always set for disappointment. What I can say is that I was swept up by the emotions of each story, concerned more for the characters than anything else, and I certainly didn’t find myself jolted out of any story thanks to any jarring incorrect portrays of life (whether in the trenches or on the home front) in WWI. Which is as it should be.
Of course, as is the case with any anthology containing stories from a myriad of authors, there are some that I prefer more than others, but I can, hand on heart, say that I didn’t find one that didn’t move me or make me think about some aspect of living at a LGBTQIA person during the war that I hadn’t considered before. This is something that, given my deep and abiding interest in WWI, you should know is no idle praise and I feel quite honoured to have been asked to review the book before its general release.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
It's difficult to review the thirteen stories in-depth on here but I do have them elsewhere. However, I can say that this is a wonderful book and all authors donated both their time and stories, all proceeds are being given to the Royal British Legion, home of the Poppy Appeal.
A Pride of Poppies is a quality anthology through-and-through. There isn’t one story I didn’t enjoy. The editing is superb and the writing exceedingly good to sublime. I had previously only read Barry Brennessel and Charlie Cochrane, so the other authors were unknown to me. I could not believe the depth and breadth of storytelling in each and every individual story, what a joy to want to fly through the Kindle pages. A couple of stories have more length, the rest are quite short, but the word count meant absolutely nothing, other than a few of these would make even better novellas/books. Even if you aren’t interested in all of the stories, the money spent on this anthology will be well worth it, in more ways than one.
Among the hundreds of thousands who fought, died, loved, lost and suffered were people of the LGBTQI community who experienced the additional stress of being unable to publicly acknowledge their experiences – both the horrific and the joyful.
A Pride of Poppies is a superb collection of stories that give voices to those who were silenced by the mainstream at the time. The stories are told across a rich array of experiences, including an intersex man facing his choices on enlistment, a ‘lesbian Lothario’ providing company to the women of her mail route, men in a German internment camp in England finding comfort in the midst of trauma, a bereaved mother visiting the sickbed of a wounded man who was her son’s particular friend, and two young men in French Indochina finding strength in each other as they struggle in their occupied homeland.
There are stories in the trenches, at sea, on the English homefront and in far-off places where the war’s impact is unexpected. But don’t get the idea that each one is a story of sorrow and misery. Far from it. There is so much love and hope in these tales, too. Happy endings as well as heartbreaking partings. The broader experience of the whole of humanity is reflected in these small and personal love stories.
Every story is a gem, though a few shone a little more brightly for me. I am an enormous admirer of Wendy C Fries Sherlock Holmes stories, and her beautiful contribution, I Remember, is lyrical and had me happy-weepy, sorrowful and glad for Christopher and James who can only write in a kind of code to each other. Eleanor Musgrove’s Inside, set in an civilian internment camp, shows life for those deemed ‘enemy aliens’ in a sympathetic light. At the Gate by Jay Lewis Taylor is another that had me tearful for the man who could not be seen to mourn too much for the man he loved. Julie Bozza (author of the excellent The Fine Point of His Soul) gives us the fresh and lovely Lena and the Swan, or The Lesbian Lothario.
A Pride of Poppies opens a window many lives affected by The Great War, not just in Europe, not just on the battlefield, but for so many lives changed and challenged in so many different ways.
The authors and publishing house all donated their efforts to this book, and a minimum of 60% of the proceeds are being donated to the Royal British Legion, which runs the UK’s Poppy Appeal. But don’t buy this wonderful anthology for that reason. Buy it because it’s a damned fine read which will break your heart, fill it with hope and remind you that love will find a way to grow, even under the harshest conditions.
Skip ahead and read “War Life” first. It followed a brother who enlisted in the war effort as well as the older sister he left behind at home. They both had introspective personalities that work well with this subject matter. I was especially interested in seeing how similarly these siblings described the world around them despite living in radically different environments at the moment. It left me me yearning for more and could easily have been expanded into a full-length novel!
There were a few contributions that I would have liked to see expanded into something a little longer so that the character in the would have had more time to grow. All of them were good stories that I deeply enjoyed reading, they simply needed some additional attention. “A Rooted Sorrow” was a good example of this. It involved a woman’s adjustment to life after the war, although there were several other characters competing for the spotlight in the plot. All of the background information about them was interesting, but it took me quite a while to figure out who was actually the protagonist. This might have worked better as a longer work so that more time could be spent exploring the relationships between everyone in what sounded like an incredibly warm and close-knit community.
“The Man Left Behind” showed how Henry’s life changed as a result of the war. He wasn’t allowed to fight in it, so he had to find another way to contribute. This was yet another tale that I was sad to see end. Henry was so well written that I desperately wanted to see what happened to him during the rest of his life. His personality burst through the plot he’d been given in the best way possible. While I don’t know if the author is planning on releasing a sequel, I’d be thrilled to read it if she does.
A Pride of Poppies: Modern GLBTQI Fiction of the Great War is a beautiful collection that I’d recommend to anyone who has even the slightest interest in World War I or GLBTQI fiction.
originally posted at long and short reviews