Tuesday, 19 November 2013

My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young

It’s 1907 when young Riley Purefoy is hit by a snowball in Kensington Gardens, London and falls into an icy pond. This is the start of a strong friendship between him and Nadine Waverley, whose family are of a different class to Riley and who take control of their relationship to prevent it from developing into anything deeper.  Then in 1918, in a fit of anger, Riley enlists and goes off to fight without even saying goodbye.

Major Peter Locke also leaves his vulnerable wife, Julia, to be an officer.  However, he leaves Julia in the safe Kent countryside watched over by his capable cousin, Rose, who joins the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) and nurses those casualties returned from the front at Queen’s Hospital in Sidcup.

The lives of these two men become intertwined in the trenches of France and their post-war lives are changed forever.

I was instantly drawn into this story by the intelligent prose of the Prologue which sets the scene, introduces the characters and establishes the main theme of the book right at the outset.  An explosion takes place on the battlefields of France and Louisa Young demonstrates the ripple effect of this through a series of short paragraphs illustrating the thoughts of those who hear it both in France and across the Channel.

It’s this ripple effect that I felt was one of the main themes of this book.  That the effects of war reach  much further than the soldiers themselves and extends to those whose involvement is far away from the battlefields and trenches.  Young men went to war and came back changed.  This also had significant repercussions on those left behind and reunions were not necessarily as had been hoped for, as the men who returned were not the same of those who had left.

This is also a story of love and of the class distinctions which existed prior to World War I.  It was interesting to read the reactions of both families to Riley trying to ‘better’ himself.  For me, it also raised questions as to whether the war changed attitudes to class?

This was much more than a book about war and love as it was thought provoking and informative.  The descriptions of the pioneering work being carried out at the Queens Hospital in Sidcup inspired me to find out more about it.  Any novel that makes me stop, think and research further has a lot to offer.  I’ve read quite a lot of novels set around World War I and in my opinion, this is one of the best.

ISBN:  9780007361441

Publisher:  Harper

Price (based on today’s price at Amazon):  £ 3.86
I already had this book on my shelves

Total saving so far:  £56.38

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