Indeed, grief is not the clear melancholy the young believe it. It is like a siege in a tropical city. The skin dries and the throat parches as though one were living in the heat of the desert; water and wine taste warm in the mouth, and food is of the substance of the sand; one snarls at one’s company; thoughts prick one through sleep like mosquitoes.” – The Return of the Soldier, Rebecca West
Initial thoughts: I had to read this book for a course on modern British literature. I was extremely happy when I received the book because it was only 80 pages long! I was elated since I also had to read Ulysses by: James Joyce in the same time frame. This novel provides a very different perspective about the nature of war, one that is so rarely explored in literature, but is extremely realistic and profound.
Set during World War I on an isolated country estate just outside London, Rebecca West’s haunting novel The Return of the Soldier follows Chris Baldry, a shell-shocked captain suffering from amnesia, as he makes a bittersweet homecoming to the three women who have helped shape his life. Will the devoted wife he can no longer recollect, the favorite cousin he remembers only as a childhood friend, and the poor innkeeper’s daughter he once courted leave Chris to languish in a safe, dreamy past—or will they help him recover his memory so that he can return to the front?” – Goodreads
How do you write about war if you have never gone to war? For most writers, their experience of war is a result of their own fantastic imaginations and research. They concoct stories of heroism and bravery with idealized images and one triumphant victor at the end. Rebecca West’s novel The Return of the Soldier provides a completely new and fresh image of the impacts of the first world war through her own experiences.
It is often that we imagine the first world war as Continue reading