Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Rated 4 Stars
This is really the most uneven book I have ever read. Parts of it were brilliant and parts of it were so far out in left field I couldn't make any sense of it whatever. I recommended this book to a friend before I got very far into it because it started out like a real page turner but now I am going to have to go back and add caveats to my recommendation. Like the nursery rhyme, when it was good it was very very good and when it was bad it was horrid.
The brilliant parts reminded me of Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong. Where the book fell apart for me was with the female characters, especially Julia. When it came to describing how she felt about herself and her relationship with her Mother it all felt shallow and unreal. It was like the author just could not connect with the character beyond creating her. Nadine was a little better and so was Rose but both of them needed to be developed far beyond what this author seemed capable of.
But with her male characters she was absolutely right there making every feeling and experience she gave them come vibrantly alive.
The lives of two very different couples are irrevocably intertwined and forever changed in this stunning World War I epic of love and war.
From the day in 1907 that eleven-year-old Riley Purefoy meets Nadine Waveney, daughter of a well-known orchestral conductor, he takes in the difference between their two families: his, working-class; hers, "posh" and artistic. Just a few years later, romance and these differences erupt simultaneously with the war in Europe. In a fit of fury and boyish pride, Riley enlists in the army and finds himself involved in the transformative nightmare of the twentieth century.
While Riley and his commanding officer, Peter Locke, fight for their country and their survival in the trenches of Flanders, Peter's lovely and naive wife, Julia, and his cousin Rose eagerly await his return. But the sullen, distant man who arrives home on leave is not the Peter they knew. Worried that her husband is slipping away, Julia is left alone with her fears when Rose joins the nursing corps to work with a pioneering plastic surgeon treating wounded and disfigured soldiers.
Only eighteen at the outbreak of the war, Nadine and Riley want to make promises to each other—but how can they when their future is out of their hands? Youthful passion is on their side, but then their loyalty is tested by terrible injury, and even more so by the necessarily imperfect rehabilitation that follows.
Moving among Ypres, London, and Paris, this emotionally rich and evocative novel is both a powerful exploration of the lasting effects of war on those who fight—and those who don't—and a poignant testament to the power of enduring love.