Melvyn Bragg's The Soldier's Return is the memorable and poignant story of Sam Richardson, a young man from rural England who has fought in the Burma campaign in World War II and who then returns home to a world totally different from the world he has left--everyone and everything has changed.
Sam has seen such atrocity that he is now harder and less willing to show a soft side. His son Joe, now five, doesn't know him. His wife has been successful working two modest jobs and does not want to give them up. Sam has been exposed to the outside world, a world which has shown him how limited his future is in the socially inflexible world of Wigton, while his wife Ellen, in contrast, has been supported by the friendships, traditions, and familiarity of this community, where she knows everyone.
The tensions within the family and within individual characters grow and boil over, as stiff-upper-lip-ishness comes into conflict with the human need to communicate and share, creating real drama and intensity. Bragg's written dialogue is completely natural, and his descriptions and his narrative style are simple, as is his choice of vocabulary. The reader will have no trouble following the various threads of the story while learning much about Cumbria, post-World War II social upheavals, and the kinds of personal problems that may have been typical for many other young soldiers. Mary Whipple
on 17 September 1999
This is Melvyn Bragg's best book since 'The Maid of Buttermere'. His writing brings the world of post-war Britain, and particularly post-war Cumbria to life so that, although I wasn't even born then, I felt that I was there. The characters are very well, and sympathetically, written, and I cared about them, particularly Joe, who must be one of the most attractive children in recent English literature. This book deserves to win prizes.