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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 14 September 2000
This was a compelling read. At the same time I wanted to make it last and absorb the atmosphere. It was very evocative of the post-war period and the 3 main protagonists were sympathetically drawn, particularly Ellen. As a woman, I found Bragg's observation of her character particularly sensitive and could easily identify with her emotional turmoil. I think many women found the war years a liberating experience, whereas their soldier husbands dreamed of returning to a peaceful and comfortable marriage. The problems of re-adjustment for the husband, the wife and for the child, are sensitively explored by Bragg in this well-written novel evocative of both time and place.
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on 19 February 2001
This was a book club book and so I was required to read it! Not sure I would have naturally leaned toward reading it otherwise.
However - it was a good read. Not a non-stop read but a book that you eagerly returned to time and again. Its images are still in my head several months later - so it must have had an impact! It was not a particularly sentimental novel but comes across as very real - a believeable, non glossy, non tear jerking,reflection of the times.
I loved the style of Mr Bragg and look forward to discovering more of his novels.
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Melvyn Bragg's The Soldier's Return is the age-old story of a young man who goes off to World War II and returns to find his world totally changed. Sam Richardson, a young man from rural England, has fought in the Burma campaign in World War II and is a changed man himself. 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's exposure to the outside world 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. Bragg's dialogue is completely natural, needing only the inflections of a voice to bring it completely to life. His descriptions and his narrative style are simple, as is his choice of vocabulary, so that no reader will have 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. Like the best of the old-fashioned novels, this is a story of basic values, with characters who grow and change. Mary Whipple
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on 6 June 2000
As a person whose mother was born and raised in Wigton ( 6 years older than Melvyn Bragg) and whose grandmother owned the bakery shop during the war and lived in the big house between Water St and Market Hill for the rest of her life,I was raised in London but spent my childhood summer holidays running the streets and alleys of Wigton. Bragg took me with him through all these memories with absolute accuracy .Even though my experiences were 20 years after Joes they seemed exactly the same. However, even given this delight it was the movement of the relationships that really makes this book. Sam and Ellen and their entirely different visions and Joe caught up in both. This is a really excellent book.
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on 21 January 2010
This is a wonderful book. Melvyn Bragg is a really good writer and the dialogue just flows and makes the book very easy to read. It is a poignant slice of social history, a soldier coming back from war after witnessing the horrors of Burma, but because of the stoicism of that generation he is unable to talk about it. He writes about the type of people of my mother's generation, who are sadly with us no more. They were poor, but had strong moral values, courage and a sense of community. He also writes women characters particularly well. He shows how life had changed so much for women when they became more independent when the men were away at war. How difficult that was for both the sexes when they came back to try and make sense of it all. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
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on 4 May 2009
Bragg's novel about the return of his father from the Burmese war is richly evocative of the period. The community of Wigton is the setting for the homecoming and subsequent difficulties faced by Sam and his family, as he struggles to fit back into his old life following the trauma of the war. His wife, Ellen and son Joe are compellingly and sympathetically drawn, but there isn't a trace of sentimentality. The narrative switches between the three characters' consciousnesses, capturing Joe's developing awareness beautifully and maintaining a clear balance between the treatment of Sam and Ellen's struggles and their responses to the situation. The things which remain unsaid dominate and it is Bragg's ability to evoke the feelings which fill the silences or sit behind what is actually said which impresses most. You are left feeling that you have had an authentic insight into this under-reported postwar period.
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on 24 September 2015
The second Melvyn Bragg book that I have read. The first was a disappointment, but The soldier's return was a delight. Atmospheric and sensitively crafted. His literary style is slightly curious, with the placing of adjectives in unusual places. Character depiction is superb and the ending is well managed.
I have already bought the second book in the trilogy.
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on 13 January 2012
This was the first Melvyn Bragg I had ever read, and I loved it so much that I was inspired to get more of his books straight away. This copy was actually a present for my Mum, who I knew would appreciate it as much as I did. The style of the writing is very good, as are the wonderfully drawn characters, each with their own reasons for acting as they do so that the reader knows exactly why certain things are inevitable.
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on 19 July 2014
A very well-crafted book about the challenges of adjusting to post war life after fighting in Burma. I found this a subtle, understated tale of the struggle so many ordinary people must have gone through. Combine this with a wonderful portrait of Bragg's home town of Wigton and you have a gentle elegiac work. Not flashy, not overtly emotional, just good honest writing.
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on 3 August 2015
Excellent - brought back so many memories of 1945 when my father returned from a 5 year absence in North Africa to find a gawky 12 year old son and a seven year old daughter who hardly knew him. Melvyn Bragg has captured perfectly the thoughts, feelings and attitudes which followed on that reunion.
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