Literature and War Readalong April Wrap up: The Winter of the World

As usual this is the time to thank those who read along and/or showed an interest in this monthly activity.

From the comments I can deduce that we all thought pretty much the same about this book. It was a mixed bag or, to quote litlove, “a curate’s egg”. True. There was much to like in this novel but also many things that didn’t work. The descriptions of the battle scenes were graphic but well-rendered, the close look at facial wounds and the reconstruction that followed were detailed. We get a feeling for how harrowing these were but also a lot of admiration for those who tried to help, the nurses and doctors alike.

Equally well done was everything that was tied to the grave/burial of the unknown warrior or soldier. (I don’t know if anyone was thinking of this book when watching the Royal Wedding that took place in Westminster Abbey were the soldier is buried).

What we all had our problems with was the story itself. At the center of this novel is a passionate love story that leaves behind considerations of friendship and decency. If you were among the readers who have difficulties to imagine such a strong passionate love at first sight story, the novel was pretty much doomed. But also if you could accept this as a premise, like I could, you had to be able to “feel” this passion. While I got a feeling for Alex, Clare left me completely unfazed. She is a great nurse and, in this function, an admirable character but the abuse story and her feelings for Alex weren’t well rendered. At one moment I was suspecting Carol Ann Lee to want to tell us that Clare acted the way she did, because she had been abused, that ultimately she was devoid of real feelings. That’s a type of explanation I do not like at all.

I also think, as did the others, that some episodes and narrative devices should have been left out.

I still have a few novels of WWI on my TBR pile but I’m glad that we move on anyway.

Looking back, the novel of the four I liked the most was Jennifer Johnston’s How Many Miles to Babylon. However if I had to recommend one to someone who has no idea about WWI, I think I would recommend Strange Meeting.

Which was your favourite? Which one would you recommend?