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VINE VOICEon 27 November 2016
This novel concerns the life of a young Cornish man, Daniel Branwell, in 1920, after returning from the trenches of the Western Front. He is racked by guilt over the death there of his childhood friend Frederick, the son of the local wealthy engineer, who employed Daniel's mother as his cleaner before the war and until her early death. Daniel is rootless and is invited to live in a makeshift shelter on the land of a solitary old lady, Mary Pascoe. He looks after her as she grows ill and then, at her dying request, he takes over her cottage and buries her on the land she loved. He continues to be haunted by the ghost of Frederick, and the associated smell of the mud and death of the trenches, even as he tries to renew his acquaintance with Frederick's sister Felicia, who now has a young daughter, her husband having also not returned from the war. This novel is very well written, but is not for those looking for a fast paced narrative. The eponymous "lie" seems to refer both to Daniel's guilt over the death of Frederick, whom he thinks he abandoned, and to his deceit over the whereabouts of Mary after he took over her cottage. The ending is suitably ambiguous, though I found it a little abrupt.
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The First World War has featured in a number of acclaimed novels in recent years; here Helen Dunmore brings alive her own take on the conflict and its aftermath, as usual focusing on individual lives caught up in the sweep of history. Her prose is as exquisite as ever as she relates the tragic story of Daniel Branwell, returned from the trenches to find his old life wiped out, carrying a burden of grief and guilt over the death of his best friend Frederick. The characters are expertly drawn and the settings - both the horrors of the French battlefield and the gloom of post-war Cornwall - are perfect, with every sight, smell, sound and taste captured. A haunting tale of lost love and the shattering legacy of trauma war leaves behind, it's both compellingly visceral and tenderly moving. Highly recommended.
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on 16 July 2014
Brilliant.
Helen Dunmore's research is second to none, to step inside a young soldier's mindset following the terrible experiences off WW1, trench warfare.
The life long effects and altered perspectives, the compassion, the isolation.
Family connection, wealth and poverty.
Young people and mature adults alike will learn from this story, and will make you think.
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on 25 July 2014
Read It And See!
This book has a dream-like quality. I won't say too much in case I give the story away to potential readers but I really couldn't put it down. I longed to know the outcome of the soldier's return. Is the war over? Is he on sick leave or has he deserted? Does it have a happy ending? All I can say is read it and see!
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on 26 March 2017
I enjoy Helen Dunmore's books, but this is not her best. The story was a good one, and I cared for the characters, but it was slow going at times. She'd obviously done extensive research into WWI soldiers going into battle and the grim aftermath. The poetry felt unnecessary.
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on 16 June 2017
Always love her books, shame she is no longer with us.
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on 27 April 2017
Well depicted account of life on the enemy front line and how loss of loved ones impacts their friends and families
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on 30 April 2017
Moving
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on 8 August 2014
A page turner that I didn't want t put down...enjoyed it
One man's fight against the haunting memories of war...
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on 14 November 2014
bit predictable
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