The Return of the Soldier
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Return of the Soldier

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  1,634 ratings  ·  184 reviews
Cicely Isabel Fairfield (1892-1983), 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. Her novel "The Return of...more
Paperback, 72 pages
Published September 17th 2009 by Circle Square Circle Books (first published 1918)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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"?

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 really abo...more
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

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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Powerful writing. It was beautiful and terrible, lovely and sad. I don't know that I have the words to describe it.
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
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
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
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
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.
Available at:

This is not an easy reading but the writer's style is quite interesting.
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
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
Another book I listened to at work. I use the site to get audiobooks of books that are in the public domain so they are free. They are read by volunteers so they are not always the best but this book was read by a reader that I've listened to before and she's quite good. I was browsing through the catalog of books on librivox and came across this one. I'd never heard of this book or author before but I thought I'd give it a try.

This book was pretty good. It's about an Englishman who...more
I found this short novel, West's first, haunting. The prose is lush, sometimes overly so and the plot seems simple, but it raises deep questions about illusions that we cling to--about ourselves and others. The narrator, Jenny, tells how her cousin Chris returns from the war with no memory of the last 15 years, including his marriage. At the start of the novel, Jenny believes that she and his wife Kitty have made Chris a contented man, whose life (despite the death of an infant son) has been hap...more
A short book with strong psychological undertones to it told in the first person narrator form. Maybe it is difficult to assimilate much in a first read. The gist of the book is an amnesic soldier who has lost 15 years of his memory and contacted his long forgotten lover instead of his wife and live-in cousin. The book goes on to depict his interactions with these three women, their fears and thoughts, and how each in her own way tries to pull him out of his amnesia. His cousin, the narrator, al...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Some of the emotions were moving, but I couldn't help but read with distaste in my mouth. Much of the interactions between characters were tainted severely by their classist nature, and I cringed every time Margaret was described so negatively by Jenny. I would have liked to hear the story told from a different perspective.

Playing devil's advocate to my own statement above, it is the contrast between the shallow narrator and her shallower companion that makes the love and agony of Cris and Marga...more
Rebecca West is my new modernist crush. Can she displace, at the core of my heart, Djuna Barnes? Probably not. Mina Loy? Maybe.
But actually it's a different kind of love one feels for each of one's beloveds. West makes me laugh, but she is also extremely psychologically incisive.
The Return of the Soldier was apparently her first novel. It's short and brutal, the way honesty can at times be cruel. It is also tender. Written in response to the first world war, it's worn well and is still sharply r...more
This is a short novel and deals with a difficult theme, that of a soldier, Chris, who has returned from the war and is suffering post traumatic disorder. The story is told by his cousin Jenny as she relates to us Chris’s past life and his new imagined life.

The novel starts with death as Jenny and Chris’s wife Kitty are sitting in the nursery pining over the death of Kitty's first child Oliver. It is from this dark beginning that the novel moves into darker themes. Kitty is not portrayed with mu...more
Juli Rahel
Rebecca West is the pseudonym for Cicely Isabelle Fairfield, who was born in 1892 in London. She grew up in a very intellectual household until the age of 8 when her father abandoned the family and they moved to Edingburgh. Her official education stopped when she was 16. She trained as an actress in London but worked as a journalist for a variety of publications to support the Suffragette cause. After insulting H.G. Wells in a review, he invited her to his house and they became lovers. She built...more
Despite its poetic, thickly-imageried writing, The Return's plot is lacking, and its characters bland. Kitty, while painted as a stereotypically icy beauty, is more sympathetic as her husband neglects her for his former flame, the washed-out, overly-demure Margaret, whose wisdom and "internal beauty" eclipses whatever virtues Chris once saw in his current wife. Jenny, our ever-judgemental narrator, is somewhat intriguing in her insights into the war, but her detriments far outweigh her benefits,...more
Willy Williams
This novel had been sitting unread on my shelves for years, but its portability attracted my attention. And I was so glad I picked it up. At a mere 90 pages, West’s profound and moving first novel, published in 1918, packs in more wisdom and insights into the human heart than any 1,000-page tome.

Set in an isolated English country house, the story revolves around the relationships among three women and a soldier suffering from shell shock. Chris has returned from the battlefields of France, his b...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Life and Death of Harriett Frean
  • Lolly Willowes
  • Frost in May
  • Not So Quiet...
  • Invitation to the Waltz
  • Her Privates We
  • The Tortoise and the Hare
  • Under Fire
  • Novel on Yellow Paper (Revived Modern Classic)
  • The Rector's Daughter
  • The Vet's Daughter
  • A Game of Hide and Seek (Virago Modern Classics)
  • South Riding
  • The War Poems
  • The Roses of No Man's Land
  • The Solitary Summer
  • Some Tame Gazelle
  • Love On The Dole
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
More about Rebecca West...
Black Lamb and Grey Falcon The Fountain Overflows The Birds Fall Down Cousin Rosamund (VMC) This Real Night

Share This Book

“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.” 9 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.” 8 likes
More quotes…