This book is pitched at those who loved war stories with a romantic edge, and if you do then this is the book for you but be warned you might not like the outcome. I struggled with this book but at the same time, there were elements which were fascinatingly researched and written beautifully, but there was not enough structure for me to keep the story flowing.
The book deals with five main characters, all interrelated. Riley Purefoy the boy from the back streets who is in love with Nadine Waveney, not an approved relationship from Nadine’s family’s point of view. Riley joins up as an ordinary ‘Tommy’ and within months is promoted to Captain, not through skill but through the death of many above him. A true reflection of the promotional opportunities brought about in the First World War. Young deals with these facts well and we can see how much Purefoy struggled with this position, how can I be serving alongside someone one month then in the next have the authority to send these men to their death. Purefoy is affected by the war physically which brings him back to Kent long before the war was ending and he needs to rebuild more than his life.
Nadine on the other hand, wants to do something whilst the man she loves is away. Her mother thinks different, she should make herself available for someone more appropriate and spend her days making calls and receiving visitors. Nadine gets her way and begins nursing as a VAD. Here she sees the horrors of war as it returns from the trenches.
Purefoy’s commanding officer, Peter Locke is of the correct class and position to be in that role, but still finds his role as a leader of men to their death as difficult. I found Peter not handled well as a character during the fighting, but it is his return to London where the effects of the war have obviously penetrated not physically but mentally and escape is found in alcohol. At home is Kent, is his wife Julia a beautiful creature who is determined to be that when her husband returns from the horrors of war.
Rose, Peter’s sister is already doing her work as a VAD and for her main role in the book and her purpose in life this is at the hospital at Sidcup where she nurses Riley Purefoy under the watchful gaze of Major Gilliies a surgeon who specialises in plastic surgery, a developing specialism which the hospital in Kent was dedicated to those returning from war. Here Young has brought to life horrific injuries and the skill of the surgeon Gillies (a real life surgeon who was not recognised for his work during the war) in reconstructing facial features.
I struggled with the ‘voice’ of this book. It is written in first person from each character but also we are getting their inner thoughts and voices and this made for uncomfortable reading, the writing did not flow. This spoilt it for me, and there were times when the story was going nowhere and seemed to aimlessly wander about until it found the path that the author wanted to go down and probably should have stuck to from the beginning.
Read this book, because it will be one of the books of the year and everyone will be talking about it which the publishers are using as a promotional tool. There are some relevant parts to the conflicts that we are partaking in today, I am reluctant to use the word war here and also the help that is needed to give returning soldiers help to reconstruct their lives whether injured by the conflict but also easing their path back into civilian life. This book if it does anything resonates about the war some 90 years ago and also what is happening today.
“Someone had shot an archduke. It was in all the papers….A Serbian shot the Austrian archduke so the Austrians want to bash the Serbians but the Russians have to protect the Serbians so the Germans gave to bash France so they won’t help the Russians against the Austrians and once they’ve bashed France we’re next so we have to stop them in Belgium.”
The quote above I think is one of the most effective in the book. It sums up so much. Sadly the book was not like this all the way through. I really did struggle and came close to giving up, but because I am interested in history and I studied the First World War I wanted to complete it because I knew it was ultimately a good story just in my opinion rather strangely put together.
What was interesting was Major Gillies and his work with plastic surgery. Doing a google on search him, I found his background fascinating and the work he achieved is somewhat amazing. If you do a search, please be aware that some of the photography is very graphic and could be upsetting. Julia’s fight to remain the same as she was when her husband left gives the opposite view of plastic surgery and is probably relevant today in an age of where plastic surgery seems a common feature in todays media.
Thank you to Amazon Vine for allowing me to receive and review this book.