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The Return of the Soldier

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3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  2,304 ratings  ·  248 reviews
The soldier returns from the front to the three women who love him. His wife, Kitty, with her cold, moonlight beauty, and his devoted cousin Jenny wait in their exquisite home on the crest of the Harrow-weald. Margaret Allington, his first and long-forgotten love, is nearby in the dreary suburb of Wealdstone. But the soldier is shell-shocked and can only remember the Marga ...more
Paperback, Virago Modern Classics, 188 pages
Published 1994 by Virago (first published 1918)
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John Freeman I'm not sure I'd describe Return of the Soldier as a WWI novel, or novella for that matter. It's a story about a man who returns from the war with…moreI'm not sure I'd describe Return of the Soldier as a WWI novel, or novella for that matter. It's a story about a man who returns from the war with amnesia, having no memory of the last 15 years and who reunites with his former love, even though he is married.

I say it is a story about the affects of the war on class. Or you could read it as a romance set in the days following the war.(less)
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Community Reviews

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Warwick
I'll tell you I think the Second World War was much more comfortable because in the First World War the position of women was so terrible, because there you were, not in danger. Men were going out and getting killed for you and you'd much prefer they weren't. […] There was a genuine humanitarian feeling of guilt about that in the first war. It was very curious, you see. There I sat on my balcony in Leigh-on-Sea and heard guns going in France. It was a most peculiar war. It was really better, in
...more
Cecily
How could you not enjoy a book that includes the idea of "an over-confiding explanation made by a shabby visitor while using the door-mat almost too zealously"?

PLOT
In this slim novel set during WW1, Charles and Kitty live in tasteful opulence, along with his cousin Jenny, who tells the story of Charles' memory loss. He returns to England with no memory of the last 15 years, desperate to see his youthful (and lower class) love, Margaret, who is also now married to someone else.

The story is reall
...more
K.D. Absolutely
Sep 09, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Rebecca West (1892-1983) was an English author, journalist, literary critic and travel author. Her real name was Cicely Isabel Fairfield and she got her alias when, as a struggling actress in London, she played the role of Romersholm, a play by Henrik Ibsen. In 1913, she wrote a provocative review of H. G. Wells' Marriage and Wells invited her to lunch. They fell in love and lived discreetly together for 10 years producing a son, Anthony West. Wells was into his second marriage then so he was no ...more
Laura
If there is such a thing as a “perfect” book, this is it. Rebecca West’s prose is like poetry — each word perfectly chosen, each phrase perfectly turned. It’s short enough to read during a pedicure, but the emotional wallop it packs demands a better setting — perhaps a conservatory . . . or a summerhouse?? (if only!) At any rate, I wouldn’t suggest the nail salon, where I just read it, or Highway 5, where I first listened to it on tape. Regardless of where you read it, though, it’s an absolutel ...more
Chris

Rebecca West was born Cicily Isabel Fairfield. Her father abandoned his family, and his death which followed hard after, left the family poor. West was educated and began a career as an actress before joining the feminist movement under the Pankhursts and writing for feminist magazines and papers. When she was 19, she began what would be a ten year affair with H. G. Wells. H. G. Wells liked the ladies and apparently thought he wore pants made of glass (see various, including Philip Gooden). West
...more
Jessica
In many ways this book is old-fashioned, romantic nearly to the point of being sentimental. It's also great and I breathed it all in in one sitting (it's short).

Published in 1918, this novel (novella?) is about a wealthy Englishman who returns from the trenches with an unlikely case of PTSD that's caused him to forget the past fifteen years of his life. It's beautifully written and conveys something of just how much World War I must've really fucked with everyone's head. The first thing I wante
...more
Viji Sarath (Bookish endeavors)
"If this be the truth,
Let me remain in the blissful ignorance.."


It was a story that made me remember all the sad songs that I've heard.. So touching.. Heartbreaking.. True lovers getting separated is something no one is happy with.. But sure has it created many a masterpiece in literature.
This is a 'truth is bitter,but you've got to accept it' type of story.. There is a beautiful romance going on.. And there is a scorn woman.. A lost child.. Sense of betrayal,though in a different shade.. Sound
...more
Margaret
West examines the relationships between a shell-shocked soldier returned from the trenches of World War I and three women important to him. Her canvas is small, focusing only on these four characters, yet the wider background of the chaos of war and of changing society is implicit throughout. Every phrase is beautifully turned; there are no wasted or unimportant words. The conclusion is relentlessly moral, but so powerfully honest that it's far from preachy. The Return of the Soldier is a short ...more
Mike Robbins
Before I read this, I had known of Rebecca West only through her famous book on Yugoslavia, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. Born in London in 1892, she had little formal education, her family being in genteel poverty. She trained as an actress, but seems to have acted little, becoming a sufragette and then the lover of H.G. Wells. She turned to writing and had a distinguished career in serious journalism. She also wrote a number of novels, but it seems unlikely that most are widely read now. The Ret ...more
Vale
Il ritorno del soldato è un breve romanzo che ha per temi il ricordo e la dolcezza del sentire. La storia è ambientata in Inghilterra quando in Europa siamo nelle fasi finali della Prima guerra mondiale. Il protagonista, a seguito di un'esplosione sul campo di battaglia, ha perso la memoria, o meglio non ricorda gli ultimi quindici anni della sua vita. Pur consapevole dei suoi doveri verso la giovane moglie decide di frequentare la ragazza che amava un tempo e che per sfortunate coincidenze avev ...more
Renee M
I'm still in that haze of amazement after you read something that is unexpectedly superb. The gorgeous sumptuously turned sentences that make a treasure even of disdain. The layers of emotion. This may be an entirely perfect piece of writing. I can't believe I didn't come across it in one of my classes. I should have. But then of course I wouldn't have had the delight of discovering this tiny glittering trove.

P. S. Elizabeth Klett does an extraordinary reading for Librivox.
Lauren
Perhaps this makes me a simpleton, but I didn’t like this book. Yes, I appreciate its historical significance in being the first novel written about the Great War by a woman. Yes, the plot hints at something wonderful. And, yes, I found the ending surprisingly good. Mostly because, unlike the majority of the book, the action at the end was shown rather than told through unending descriptions and thoughts of what was likely happening. It’s also the only point in the book where the characters were ...more
Tony
THE RETURN OF THE SOLDIER. (1918). Rebecca West. ****.
This was Ms. West’s first novel, and apparently provided her a great introduction to the world of readers at the time. It’s one of many novels of the period that used WW I as the setting or the starting point. Basically, it is about what we, today, call PTSD. Back then, they referred to it as “shell shock,” or “war neurosis.” The effects of trench warfare on the soldiers were horrific. In most cases they would have been better off being kille
...more
Miriam
Jan 18, 2010 Miriam rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Miriam by: Jeremy
Shelves: memory
West’s first novel deals with love, war, grief, memory, loneliness, self-deception, class prejudice, materialism, and probably some other important questions that I didn't pick up on in my single reading.
Safae
I've stopped reading books synopsis' a long time ago since some of them actually ruins the book for you , so i had absolutely no idea on what this book was about, i only started reading it since it is a recommendation from someone on "1001 books you must read before you die group" on goodreads, i complained about the difficulty i found on other books on the very same list, and she gave me a little piece of advice.
She was right, the book is easy on the language level , on the other hand i can't s
...more
James
This first novel by Rebecca West was published in 1918. It is short but holds tremendous rewards for the attentive reader. Focusing on the return of a shell-shocked soldier suffering from amnesia, the novel presents a world turned upside down by the effect of the soldier's illness on his internal life as well as his relationships with his wife, sister, and former lover (from before his marriage). The upset of his personal world mirrors the state of Europe after the Great War. The author highligh ...more
Vasha7
This book didn't start very promisingly. I'm not immediately inclined to follow along with the reflections of a narrator whose sole self-appointed task was to create a comfortable nest for the splendid, great, amazing, etc. man she selflessly adored, who was satisfied with "the way that in the midst of entertaining a great company he would smile secretly to us, as though he knew we would not cease in our task of refreshing him"; who said that "nothing could ever really become a part of our life ...more
Ally
Some of the writing within this novella was beautiful but there were a lot of flowery passages that I didn't feel added to the story and which resulted in my mind wandering. This meant that I had to try and re-read some parts in order to pick up the story again. I would call it a pretentious writing style but that might be a little unfair as there were sentences and paragraphs that were sublimely poetic. - The plot itself was interesting and the sub themes of beauty and snobbery were well handle ...more
Ali
Although I have a lovely green Virago copy of this book, I chose to read the free version which I have on my kindle as I am away this week and I generally take my kindle away with me for ease. This is really a novella, but despite it's size it does pack quite an emotional punch. The writing is quite perfect, rather poetic at times. Apparently written when the author was very young and I believe it was her first published novel, it really was quite an achievement. The Return of the Soldier takes ...more
El
The soldier in the title is Chris Baldry who comes home from the First World War a slightly different man - physically the same, but his memories have been swiss-cheesed causing him to not remember his wife at all, his dearest cousin as a childhood friend only and his first love as he last saw her fifteen years ago. He returns thinking she is his love still and cares to have it no other way. The three women are brought together in this cruel turn of events to try to come to terms with this and t ...more
Stephanie "Jedigal"
A soldier is retrieved from a hospital with amnesia when his family discovers what has happened to him. In spite of the detachment one feels with many books of the period, this is nevertheless an intimate portrayal of the experience of those who love him, first as he fails to remember them, and considers his former lover as more present and real to him, and then as he "returns" to his "soldier" self. Quietly sad.

West's got some beautiful old-fashioned "flowery" language here. If you're in the ri
...more
Wendy Bertsch
This is a most intriguing study of what it meant to be a feminist in the early 1900's. We are given a hint - the merest intimation - that a woman might be able to live a sort of fulfilling life without a man. But the doting attention at least two out of the three women in this story lavish on the rather ordinary, albeit inoffensive, returning soldier can be a bit hard to take. And the stereotypes of the British class system, which purport to be challenged here, are actually reinforced with every ...more
Adam Dalva
A really good novella - it strikes me as the platonic ideal of an Ian McEwan star-crossed love novel with a surprising dab of Salinger. Dismissed for far too long, this is a quick and compelling read with three moments of memorable beauty. Margaret is an all-timer of a character and the moment of her meeting with Chris is extraordinary (to avoid spoilers, I can't really talk about the plot at all. There is essentially one plot move in this book, and it's a cliche, yes, but it's worth finding for ...more
Bette
For a story that's only about eighty pages long, this book really packs an emotional punch. Usually I know how I want a story to end, but with this one, I felt torn. Either way, lives would be ruined. Very poignant and gorgeously written--hard to believe this was West's first novel.
Laura
Available at: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/wome...

This is not an easy reading but the writer's style is quite interesting.
Peggy
In 1918, Chris Baldry is serving in France while his cousin Jenny and wife Kitty wait for his return. The women learn that Chris is sick from shell shock. When he returns home he doesn't remember his wife at all. Instead, he seeks out his lover from fifteen years earlier, Margaret, an ordinary woman from the mid or lower classes, who wears "cheap stays" and has the "wholesome endearing heaviness of the draught-ox or the big trusted dog."

Jenny narrates. She's a keen observer of her cousin, being
...more
Cateline
The Return of the Solider by Rebecca West

Chris returns from the WWI battlefields of France, a man that cannot remember his wife, deceased child, or the last 15 years of his life. His last memory before being injured is that of a lost love.

West beautifully portrays the agony and rethinking of each of their lives. Her prose is evocative, yet rather straightforward. She shows us the agony of the women in Chris's life, and makes us feel it. She shows us the motivations, for good or bad of each wom
...more
Dan
this is an odd little book. for the majority of its pages, it reminded me a bit of marguerite duras. the prose is lush, lavish and, like duras, occasionally overwrought. it's also remarkably elusive - it's difficult to see why the three women it chronicles are so enthralled with the returning, amnesiac soldier of the title. his character seems deliberately under-written, which gives the reading experience the quality of a ghost story and keeps the masochistic affections of its three female chara ...more
Tommy
I'm waiting for your criticism Tara, I'm guessing something along the lines of too cold and lack the emotional depth to understand this work. I get that it was depressing and Margaret's decision at the end was heartrending. I just wasn't a big fan of the writing style. I guess I just found the prose a bit overblown and sentimental for my liking.

One thing I did really enjoy, was Rebecca West skewering the tendency to look down on the poor with superficial disdain based upon position and outward a
...more
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Cicely Isabel Fairfield (21 December 1892-15 March 1983), known by her pen name Rebecca West, or Dame Rebecca West, DBE was an English author, journalist, literary critic and travel writer. A prolific, protean author who wrote in many genres, West was committed to feminist and liberal principles and was one of the foremost public intellectuals of the twentieth century. She reviewed books for The T ...more
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“Embraces do not matter; they merely indicate the will to love and may as well be followed by defeat as victory. But disregard means that now there needs to be no straining of the eyes, no stretching forth of the hands, no pressing of the lips, because theirs is such a union that they are no longer aware of the division of their flesh.” 10 likes
“It's my profession to bring people from various outlying districts of the mind to the normal. There seems to be a general feeling it's the place where they ought to be. Sometimes I don't see the urgency myself.” 7 likes
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