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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

'My Dear I Wanted To Tell You' by Louisa Young

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

A moving and brilliant novel of love and war, set against the brutal backdrop of World War I.

Riley Purefoy and Nadine Waveney, both only eighteen when war breaks out, want only the chance to love and to live - but the war seduces Riley and he leaves to fight for his country in the trenches of Flanders. Separation and the long, slow horrors of wartime prove a terrible test to their relationship and their possible future.

Peter Locke, Riley′s CO, leaves behind him at home two women who love him. His wife, Julia, beautiful and innocent, neurotically prepares for his eventual return. His cousin, Rose, a wartime nurse, dedicates herself to the damaged lives of disfigured returning soldiers. Everyone, in their own way, is trying to keep hope alive in outrageous circumstances.

Moving between Ypres, London and Paris, My Dear I Wanted to Tell You is a deeply affecting novel revealing the plight of the soldiers who serve, and the women they love. How does humanity bear what is unbearable?

The story begins in 1907, with a snowball to the head and an icy dip in a Kensington Gardens lake. Thus begins the friendship between working-class boy, Riley Purefoy, and the Waveney family of kind intellectual bohemians who take him in as one of their own.

Riley’s friendship with Nadine Waveney grows and prospers over the years, until they both come to a realization of love. But when Nadine’s mother objects to the unsuitable courtship Riley turns his mind to the war effort and naively signs up to fight ‘for the duration of the war’.

While fighting on the front-lines, Riley experiences the grueling horrors of war. He is dehumanized and built up again by the barrage of gun fire.

While fighting, Riley befriends a young and sensitive commanding officer, Peter Locke. While Riley thinks of Nadine, Peter pines for his wife, Julia, back home. . .

Meanwhile, Julia and her cousin Rose are dealing with the war effort the way only women can. Julia is hell-bent on Peter coming home to a perfect little wife. Rose is working under the revolutionary doctor, Major Gillies, and helping him to patch-up wounded soldiers with horrendous facial scarring. Miles away and Nadine is also working as a nurse, helping wounded soldiers and imaging Riley’s face in all of them. . .

Five lives intertwine against the backdrop of a war to end all wars . . . and five very different battles are fought in the aftermath of armistice.

‘My Dear I Wanted to Tell You’ is the new novel from Louisa Young.

A war-time novel is bound to leave a reader with heavy heart and morose mind . . . it’s the ambiance of war that demands such intense feelings and dark observations. But Louisa Young’s novel is marked by brilliance for what it leaves behind. Days after I read the last page I was still thinking on this novel, I found my mind drifting back to the characters and still turning their stories over in my head. A war-time novel is meant to move you, but it’s the mark of a truly great novel that stays with you long after you’ve read the last line.

‘My Dear I Wanted to Tell You’ takes its title from a letter writing format designed to encourage young soldiers to express their feelings on the page and vent their thoughts. As the novel progresses, we read the letter exchanges between characters and the foreboding they hold for when the war is done and dusted. Julia and Peter write stunted words, unsure in their tender marriage, and unknowing of each other. While Peter struggles with his fractured soul under cannon fire, Julia is back home practicing to be the perfect home-maker upon his return. Their worlds are far apart and the letters mark the distance.

Meanwhile, Nadine and Riley write candid outpourings of love and missing. Riley is honest and relentless in his chaotic letters home. Nadine yearns on the page, but writes unbridled letters of honesty and humour;

“. . . Please dearest Riley let me know when I can come to you. I am going mad here, dropping things, not sleeping, not eating. Mad! Jean says she has never seen a girl so lovesick. It’s not just my mind – my body, my heart, my dreams, my digestive system! All shouting Riley, Riley, he’s in trouble, go to him . . . I can’t shut them up. My poor colleagues here are sick of the sight of me, and of the sound of your name. Apparently I am sleeptalking now! Shouting your name in the night, Jean says. And, she says, rolling over and hugging her!! Which I deny, because I will never ever roll over and hug anyone in the night but you, my darling – ”

The story progresses to glimpse the aftermath of war as it impacts these five criss-crossing lives. Young visits the pain of survivor’s guilt, and the silences that follow the men home and choke the households they have longed for.

But throughout the novel there is Riley and Nadine, and their enduring love . . . the light in a novel of stark misery and wartime suffering. And it’s all the brighter for its counterpoint.

‘My Dear I Wanted to Tell You’ is sublime. A novel of war that will leave you wrecked and wanting more. You’ll think on these characters for days after the last page. . .

5/5

1 comment:

  1. Great review! Not something I tend to enjoy, but Im glad you loved it so =D

    ReplyDelete

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