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?

10 thoughts on “Literature and War Readalong April Wrap up: The Winter of the World

  1. I’m STILL reading this book! Work has been crazy and cut into my reading time, but I hope to get my post up later this week. Then I will read your posts and weigh in. 🙂

  2. Surprise, I liked “Strange Meeting” the best. However, I liked all four and I am glad I read them. If God is a female, I think this will help get me in Heaven. By the way, to use the word “graphic” to describe Lee’s descriptions of battle is true only relative to the fact the book was written by a woman. No offense. Shusaku? Is that a female name?

    • “Graphic” is relative, of course. Surprisingly I find it harder to read about wounds than to watch a movie. The facial wounds did get to me. Even in the French movie that I mentioned.
      Rest assured, Shusaku Endo is a man. There are still a few female writers left. Duras, Morante and Soli. But also 5 men. We are entering your terrain. 🙂

  3. I haven’t posted a full review of this Caroline because I felt that you and Danielle wrote such beautiful reviews that there wasn’t anything I really needed to add, and I’ve had quite a few other books to talk about lately. I think you sum up the whole experience of this book very well indeed. I’m really hoping to read Ford Maddox Ford’s Parade’s End sometime this year which I’ve heard very good things about. It’s a three-volume whopper, so not a narrative you could really have included in your readalong, but I’m hoping that might prove a fascinating account of WW1 and its aftermath.

    • That sounds interesting but I agree three-volumes would be too ambitious. Did you read the Regeneration Trilogy? I’m sure you would like it with all the insights into early psychiatry. I loved the link to cultural anthropology. W:H.R. Rivers is an interesting man.

  4. I don’t know if I bought the love at first sight scene in this book, but I was willing to let it go and keep reading. I just felt like the romance was a bit forced and not as well done as the rest of the book. However, the romance was necessary for the storyline of the Unknown Warrior.

    Overall, I did like the book because of the historical information and the strength of the writing. Both Strange Meeting and How Many Miles to Babylon were better, though.

    Thanks again for hosting these discussions!

    • You are welcome. I have no problem with love at first sight. I really know it does happen but I didn’t buy her feelings at all. Yes, I agree Strange Meeting and How Many Miles to Babylon were much better. I’m not sure I will read Carol Ann Lee’s next book but I will read more of the other two authors.

  5. I’ve liked all the books we’ve read so far, but this one perhaps the least. There were many good things about it, but it just didn’t all quite come together for me. I’ll still keep reading about this period, but I am happy to move on in time to something new. 🙂

    • It is also my least favourite. I’m still interested in reading other books on the period as well but not right now. Some elements are also repeated much more than in novels on WWII.

Thanks for commenting, I love to hear your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.