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Gifts of War

3.51  ·  Rating Details ·  292 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
During the Christmas Truce of 1914, Hal Montgomery, a British soldier, is given a photo by a German soldier, Wilhelm Wetzlar, and they make a pact. Hal promises to find his enemy’s English girlfriend, Sam, and let her know her fiancé is alive and thinking of her. Several weeks later, Hal—now injured—is discharged from the army and goes to Stratford on Avon to fulfill his p ...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published July 7th 2009 by Nan A. Talese (first published 2009)
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All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria RemarqueThe Ghost Road by Pat BarkerThe Last Summer by Judith KinghornA Farewell to Arms by Ernest HemingwayThe Eye in the Door by Pat Barker
World War 1 Fiction
50th out of 173 books — 31 voters
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What Is Love? Perspectives On Love
36th out of 39 books — 30 voters

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Community Reviews

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Jul 07, 2009 Sara rated it really liked it
“Waiting is not living,” says, Sam, girlfriend of our narrator Hal in Mackenzie Ford’s debut novel Gifts of War. Sam is referring to waiting for the return of her missing paramour, Wilhem—a German soldier during WWI at a time of obvious anti-German sentiment. Her statement affects Hal differently, for he’s been waiting for Sam to discover the truth about how he manipulated his way into Sam and her young son Will’s life. During the Christmas Truce, an actual event in history where the enlisted re ...more
I've been pondering overnight what rating to give this book. On the other hand, I did appreciate the realness of the book, especially when it comes to the relationships of all kinds. The story didn't sugarcoat och fluffed or tried to provide a typical romance novel romantic relationship. It was practical, unmatched, but sweet, in its way. It also explored the relationships between sisters with a lovely greyness.

The writing was also beautiful, a bit slow, but descriptive in a good way with a beau
Sep 06, 2016 Janet rated it really liked it
The Gifts of War hooked me from the first page. The story began with the Christmas Truce of 1914 during WWI.which was a true event and was meaningful to me. The Irish singer, John McDermott, sang of this event in one of his songs that I always played to my class when we observed .Remembrance Day. The author is a well known historian in Britain ( but writes under a pseudonym)
and provides fascinating details about events that happened during WWI He intertwines a story of the tragedies of war, a lo
Nov 09, 2009 Wyma rated it really liked it
My first Mackenzie Ford book: I was intrigued by the title and the cover. When I opened it and read the first page I was hooked. This is very good writing and seems to be accurate in setting and events. The story begins at the start of the first world war and ends with the Paris Peace accord. It's a love story and there is more than one triangle. The characters are people you might know; they could live next door they seem so real. Narrated by a young man injured at the Front (and in the front), ...more
Dec 09, 2009 Felice rated it liked it
I thought "Gifts of War" was a terrific read. It's a meditation on ethics cleverly disguised as a well written historical page turner! It's like the author figured out a way to hide the vegetables inside the cheesecake.

The opening section of "Gifts" is a powerful description of the supremely ghastly and the miraculous Christmas of 1914 at the front. Here we are introduced to British infantryman Hal Montgomery. Hal has the old school background and is the kind of traditional hero we can respect.
Marie says...

Since ALA annual has come and gone, it is hard to think back to Midwinter in Denver. It was there that I picked up a galley of Gifts of War, the new novel by historian Mackenzie Ford. I challenge any historical fiction lover to read this blurb and not be intrigued:

During the Christmas Truce of 1914, Hal Montgomery, a British soldier, is given a photo by a German soldier, Wilhelm Wetzlar, and they make a pact. Hal promises to find his enemy’s English girlfriend, Sam, and let her kno
Saturday's Child
Mar 11, 2016 Saturday's Child rated it liked it
The title of this novel made me notice it and wonder what gifts war could possibly give? I don't read a lot of war novels as they are often filled with sadness and tragedy (as war is) so I am picky with which ones I choose to read. Yes, this one has sadness and tragedy but it also has happiness and love. I enjoyed following Hal's story and I am glad I took a chance on it despite my initial reluctance due to war being a part of the plot.
Manjot Kaur
Mar 01, 2016 Manjot Kaur rated it it was ok
I LOVED the beginning of the book. It started out at such a key moment in history - the Christmas truce in the beginning of WW1 - so I was hoping that the insightful and tight narrative would continue. But almost right after that point, the story went to become a limp love story of sad man. Neither of the main characters developed into anything interesting - they just kept saying and doing expected things and stayed true to a two-line sketch that could have been written at the start:
1. Hal: Kind
Mar 15, 2015 Ann rated it really liked it
Another look at the years of WW1 and its tragedy..the death of more than 8 million soldiers. Although a fictitious novel, the root of the story stems from the Christmas Truce of 1914. The author clearly makes you feel how tender mankind can be, even when they are supposed to be enemies and then with this one act alone sets the stage for a very interesting novel of intrigue, undercover operations, and war intelligence.
To note: there are natural breaks in the story that in no way interfere with th
Aug 10, 2009 Crystal rated it really liked it
I started reading this before my surgery and finished it up in the week after it. What's funny is even when I couldn't read in the hospital this book stayed on my mind. I don't read much historical fiction, but what little I have read I have enjoyed and it has made me want to delve into this genre even more.

As far as history is concerned I know very little except the highlights after 1900 - I blame this on my schooling and also on my lack of interest. Now I enjoy reading about historical time fr
Jul 28, 2009 Sharon rated it it was amazing
It should come as no surprise that MacKenzie Ford's "Gifts of War" is well-researched; Ford is an historian writing under a non de plume.

Taking the 1914 Christmas Truce as the jumping-off point, Ford writes about Hal Montgomery, an English soldier. During the Truce, Montgomery meets a German soldier called Wilhelm ... who has a girlfriend back in England. Wilhelm asks Montgomery to look her up and give her his photograph, since he cannot write to her without her being branded a traitor.

Kelly Hager
May 09, 2010 Kelly Hager rated it liked it
This is set in England during World War I.

As backstory, the Christmas Armistice is when British and German soldiers stopped fighting over Christmas the first year of the war. They sang carols and chatted a little. (This is true.) During the brief armistice, Hal (a British soldier) meets Wilhelm, a German soldier. Wilhelm asks Hal to find his fiancee (British schoolteacher) and tell her that he still loves her. They met and fell in love but were then separated when he had to go off and fight the
Barb Terpstra
Jul 29, 2011 Barb Terpstra rated it really liked it
Gifts of War begins with the World War I 1914 Christmas Truce (widespread unofficial ceasefires that took place along the Western Front around Christmas of 1914). I did not know this was a true fact until I googled it after finishing the book.

Wilhelm (German) and Hal (British) meet during the truce and have a conversation. In the course of the conversation, Hal makes a promise to Wilhelm, one he does not keep. This failed promise embarks him on a life of deceit. A life he willfully chooses. Here
Jun 16, 2009 Silvia rated it really liked it
During the Christmas Truce of 1914, Hal Montgomery, a British soldier, is given a photo by a German soldier, Wilhelm Wetzlar, and they make a pact. Hal promises to find his enemy’s English girlfriend, Samantha, and let her know her fiancé is alive and thinking of her. Several weeks later, Hal—now injured—is discharged from the army and goes to Stratford on Avon to fulfill his promise. But things take an unexpected turn when he meets the woman in the photo and falls in love with her himse
PennsyLady (Bev)
Jan 16, 2016 PennsyLady (Bev) rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww1-2
Gifts of War opens in the trenches with the WWI Christmas Truce of 1914.

British second lieutenant Hal Montgomery tells his soldiers to hold their fire.
Hal faces Oberleutnant Wilhelm Wetzlar in the "informal, unauthorized truce."
Hal is proficient in German and Wilhelm in English.

Wilhelm shows a picture of a beautiful young English woman (Sam) (Sally Ann Margaret Ross),his fianc. ...
He was in England, prewar, in an exchange course.
They fell in love and were engaged before he was recalled to German
Jun 30, 2009 Colleen rated it it was amazing
This book is a hard one to review because it is hard to capture exactly what makes it so very good. No question the book is well-written and historically accurate- no a surprise given that the writer is an historian by profession. More importantly, the characters really breathe and live through the pages of the book; once I started reading, I had a hard time putting this book down. Hal and Sam are both sympathetic characters with realistic flaws, working hard to carve out a life in a time of per ...more
Linda C
Aug 12, 2010 Linda C rated it liked it
I WANTED to love this book. I EXPECTED to love this book. But, unfortunately, I didn't LOVE this book. I'm not sure that I even liked it that much.

The book began with a great premise-- the Christmas truce of WWI, one of the truly great moments (maybe the only great moment) in that useless war. The main character, Hal, meets his German counterpart, Wilhelm, and promises to take a message to Wilhelm's English girlfriend, Sam. However, instead of delivering the message as promised, Hal falls in lov
Aug 06, 2010 Bette rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 22, 2010 Pat rated it liked it
A book about WWI, circa 1914 - 1918. A tale of love, war, betrayal and of course the hardships of war. The horror of being on the front line during WWI is vivid in this book. The chemical warfare that was introduced as a weapon. A love story; yet much more as well. A novel with spies; intrigue and most of all secrets. I would give this book 3 and a half stars.

"At night, when the shooting stops, and when the sky is clear, I look up and see the stars. The stars are the only things that the war ha
Apr 11, 2016 Donia rated it liked it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
This book started out to be a four or five star read but it is going down hill; sliding into nothingness. I keep putting this book down as it gets less and less engaging. It is so sad when a story can't maintain it's grasp. I may put it aside and pick it up another time. I have found that ones mood sometimes my interest. Other projects call to me and unless the writing is fine...well readers understand
Jun 22, 2009 Kellyreaderofbooks rated it really liked it
Set in the early days of WW I, the book starts off with a favor. It's the famous Christmas Truce of 1914, when soldiers on both sides put down their weapons for a temporary cease-fire. During this time, an English soldier (Hal) meets a German soldier (Wilhelm) and promises to deliver a photograph to Wilhelm's English girlfriend. Just one problem: Hal finds himself falling for the girlfriend himself, when he goes to fulfill his promise.

It states on the back blurb of the book that the author is a
Sep 03, 2011 Sarah rated it it was ok
Hmmmm...I expected better. It started out interestingly enough - I liked the opener about the Christmas truce. The rest of it was meh. I started out liking Hal at the start of the book; by the end, I thought he seemed kind of manipulative and boring. Sam was a total bore right from the start; I didn't believe her character felt anything like a real woman throughout the entire novel. The historical and intrigue stuff was interesting but felt quite clumsy to me. There was a *SPOILER* minor lesbian ...more
Mar 21, 2016 Pat rated it it was ok
A World War I romance, very British, but I have to admit to annoyance with the plot device this entire book is based upon. The very idea that Hal and Wilhelm would meet at the Christmas truce, exchange gifts and conversation, and then Hal would not honor his promise is so soapy. There must be a better way to get your point across.
Sep 25, 2009 Rebecca rated it liked it
This was a very gripping book from beginning to end, but I was horribly dissapointed with the ending and did not see it coming. Sam lives with Hal throughout the entire war, he raises her son who knows him as his father, and he provides not only for them but also for Sam's three sisters on and off again. Yet, in the end, he lets her choose between him and Wilhelm (who she hasn't seen for four years) and she chooses Wilhelm? Granted, Hal chose not to tell her about his knowing Wilhelm, but still, ...more
Oct 15, 2009 Vivienne rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: incurable romantics
Recommended to Vivienne by: Elle Magazine
A "relationship" novel more than a romance. Hal is an English 2Lt in the trenches during the famous Christmas Truce. The German officer on the other side of the truce asks a favour of Hal - to find his English girlfriend and give her a photo. Hal finds the girlfriend, Sam, after being invalided home. Love at first sight for Hal, a pleasant convenience for Sam. Hal keeps the photo to himself and waits for his world to crumble when Sam learns the truth. Meanwhile the war rages and fades. There is ...more
May 06, 2011 Megan rated it liked it
I did like this book...Just so you know before you read my review.

Here are my issues...A little graphic with the sex scenes (one in particular, no thank you very much), totally frustrating character (Sam) and emotionally distressing.

That said, I thought it was EXTREMELY well-written, well-researched, and well-executed. I loved the weaving of history and STORY, and I felt much more educated about WWI Britain (which wasn't hard, apparently I knew nothing). I was totally fascinated by how much WWI
Liza Gilbert
Jul 30, 2009 Liza Gilbert rated it liked it
I read until page 142 and then scanned the rest.

The story about a man who is injured in WWI and returns home to England to woo the girl of one of the enemy is very readable. But this book about war is a little too quiet. The descriptions of war seem serviceable, and the relationships are serviceable, but the story itself just isn't very compelling. (Plus the ending sucked.)

Early in the story, Hal, the protagonist, talks of how well-intentioned folks on the home front shipped crates and crates of
Jun 20, 2010 Michelle rated it liked it
When I first started this book I was distracted by the fact it was written by a historian--who did not want to use his/her real name. It was all very intriguing. Therefore, as I read I felt bogged down by the historical nature of the fiction. I lost the story and often felt the emotional issues (in the beginning) were forced on the reader. By the end of the book (the last section really) I was moved by the self realization made by the main character Henry (Hal). The end changed the whole book fo ...more
Carol N
Jun 18, 2012 Carol N rated it really liked it
Set against ferment of World War I, Gifts of War is a finely woven tapestry that deals with one man’s choices, consequences and redemption. This vivid tale of romance and intrigue is a salient narrative that explores the uncertainties of the human heart by creating a story that resonates with the reader long after having finished the last page. I thoroughly enjoyed Mackenzie Ford’s book filled with superb period details of wartime England. It captured the era and the fates of men and women caugh ...more
Oct 17, 2009 Barb rated it really liked it
I loved this book - the main character, Hal, was dishonest with a women he was supposed to deliver a message to about a former love. He established a relationship with the woman himself, an unsatisfying, one sided relationship. What Hal did was wrong but I wanted him to be the winner - I couldn't help but like him and admire the way he took care of the woman and her newborn son (the lover's child, not Hal's). This all occurred during WW1 which increased its interest to me. Hal did not survive th ...more
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