Archives for The Great War

#BookReview ‘The Pull of the Stars’ by @EDonoghueWriter #historical

In Dublin, 1918, it is a time of immense global and social change. Emma Donoghue’s latest novel The Pull of the Stars takes place almost exclusively in a cramped three-bed fever ward in an understaffed hospital. All patients are pregnant and quarantined while the world is racked by war and influenza. Both of these are unpredictable, killing at random, lasting longer than predicted and classless. This is an at times breath-taking, touching and emotional novel that sucks you into a feverish dream so you want to read on and on. Taking place over three days, Nurse Power arrives for work to find herself temporarily in charge. Donoghue excels at the ordinary detail of Julia’s life, her journey to work, the arbitrary rules of the matron, the needs at home of her war-damaged soldier brother Tim who is now mute. On the day the story stars, Julia’s only help comes from an untrained young volunteer, Bridie McSweeney, who acts as a runner to find doctor or orderly as required. The figure of three recurs – three beds, three days, three key characters. The third, Doctor Kathleen Lynn, is a real person, her history documented. She was arrested during the 1916 Easter
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Wake

Amongst the profusion of novels about the Great War, Wake stood out for me from the rest because it is about the aftermath rather than the fighting. The spine of the narrative is the journey of the body to be entombed in Westminster Abbey as the ‘Unknown Soldier’. I have visited the tomb but had not considered its selection, the post-war politics and social consequences of choosing one soldier’s remains rather than another. Anna Hope handles a delicate topic – isn’t everything to do with war emotionally-delicate? – with confidence. Wake is a powerful novel by a debut author. There is something unsettling about the first scenes where un-named soldiers drive out into what was no-man’s-land, not knowing where they are going or why. They are directed to dig up the remains of a soldier: unidentified soldiers dig up the remains of an unidentified victim. Four bodies are laid out, not so much bodies as heaps of remains. A Brigadier-General closes his eyes and rests his hand on one of the stretchers, this body is put into a thin wooden coffin. The three not chosen are put into a shell hole at the side of the road, a chaplain says a short
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Lie

I found this to be an unbelievably poignant novel. In The Lie by Helen Dunmore, Daniel Branwell has returned home to Cornwall from The Great War. The stories of his childhood, his war, and his return are interwoven seamlessly. It is also the story of all the lost men who returned from fighting in 1918 and didn’t know where to go or what to do. They faced their futures alone, unsure if they were mad, if their memories of war were correct or whether they were strong enough to resist the memories of carnage. Dan’s life unfolds like a thriller, with mysteries and suspicions, so that I turned the pages looking for answers and before I knew it I had reached the end. Dunmore is an accomplished novelist who handles her emotionally explosive subject with sure hands, juxtaposing the daily reality of post-war Cornwall with Dan’s memories, perhaps true, perhaps confused, of battle. Truth is the unknown. The war is in every move Dan makes, every thought, every dream. Needing food, he digs the earth to plant vegetables but cannot escape the battlefield: “It was the smell of earth. Not clean earth, turned up by spade or the fork, to be
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Categories: Book Love.