Saturday, May 28, 2011

Review: My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young

From the Back Cover:

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.

My Thoughts:

There were some things about this book I liked, and some I really didn't. Riley loves Nadine, but her parents don't approve, and they forbid Riley to see her anymore. Reeling from that decision and a disturbing incident with his best friend, Riley enlists. Nadine becomes a nurse. They communicate through letters and two stolen moments on leave. The distance combined with their mutual understanding of the war makes their hearts grow fonder. But their love is tested when Riley is gravely wounded and disfigured. I was smitten with Riley right off the bat, and later, after the war started, I came to admire Nadine for her dedication to Riley and to the war effort. They're the reason this book gets three stars. I think their story is a great one, and the book should have focused on them and left the other storyline out altogether.

That would be Peter and Julia. Peter is Riley's commanding officer in the field and Julia is his vapid little trophy wife left behind in England and feeling sorry for herself because she can't help the war effort because all she knows how to do is be beautiful. Bah! Peter ends up not being able to handle the horrors of war and turns into a low-functioning drunk. I couldn't really find anything to like about either of them. In fact, I pretty much hated Julia. There's also another character, Rose, Peter's cousin and Riley's nurse at the facial reconstruction hospital. I liked her, but it's pretty obvious her only function was to be a common thread between the two storylines.

Which brings me to the writing style. I couldn't tell if the book was full of omitted words that the editor didn't catch or if it was supposed to be written that way. I was constantly rereading lines to get them to make sense, and that's not a good thing. The POV switched abruptly in the middle of some scenes and confused me. And while I didn't find the stream-of-consciousness-thing annoying, others might. I would recommend this book for Riley and Nadine's story, the way Ms. Young is able to show how the war brought men and women onto a more level playing field, and for the facial reconstruction hospital, since that is something I can't say I'd ever read about before. But I'll probably pass on Ms. Young's next novel.

My Rating:  3 Stars out of 5

*Please note: This review references an advance copy received from the publisher through the Amazon Vine program, and therefore the final published copy may differ. Though I received this book from the publisher, these are my honest and unbiased thoughts, and I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book.


  1. I just do not know. It could be a book for me or not. I just can't tell

  2. Hmm, too bad. Sounds like it had some promise but I might pass on this one.


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