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Gifts of War

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  240 ratings  ·  79 reviews
A vivid tale of romance, adventure, and intrigue, Gifts of War is a remarkable novel that explores what made War World I so tragic and revolutionary.

During the Christmas Truce of 1914, Hal Montgomery makes a pact with a German soldier that will change his life—he promises to find his enemy’s English girlfriend, Sam, and let her know her fiancé is alive. But things take an
Paperback, 464 pages
Published July 13th 2010 by Anchor (first published 2009)
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“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
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
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
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.

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
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.
Kelly Hager
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
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
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
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 fiancé. ...
He was in England, prewar, in an exchange course.
They fell in love and were engaged before he was recalled to Germa
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
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
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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
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
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
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 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
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
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
This is an interesting look at WWI from a British perspective, especially regarding the analysis of military intelligence. The main character, Hal Montgomery, is an English officer who meets his German counterpart during a Christmas truce. When the German officer asks a favor of Hal, Hal's fate is sealed. During the course of the book, Hal demonstrates his weakness of character. It is difficult to overlook his dishonesty in dealing with his lover and the cavalier way he disregards his pledge of ...more
I was expecting more form this novel but I did enjoy it. There were wonderful lessons in History surrounding WW1, I thought the story was wonderful but it moved rather slowly. Ultimatley it brings home to the reader the many moral dilemmas that the world faced during and after this life altering war. The love story is as complicated as the war conflict and I often found myself wondering how differently the lives of Hal, Sam (Sally Ann Margaret) and Wilhelm would have turned out if not for the ci ...more
I would have easily given this book 4 stars if it weren't for one particularly uncomfortable part. I found it interesting how the author gave accounts during the war of those on the Front and compared it to London, which really had minimal lifestyle changes at the time. It was interesting to see what drove the main character the most, guilt or unconditional love, after making a quick decision that was deceiving and therefore affected the lives of those he loved. It was definitely an interesting ...more
During the Christmas truce of 1914 along the western front, British officer, Hal, meets a young German officer, Wilhelm. Wilhelm gives Hal a picture of himself and asks Hal to give it to a girl in England, Sam, who Wilhelm had dated before the war. Wilhelm wanted to let her know he was alright and that he still cared for her. Hal was injured, sent back to England, and after his recovery sets out to fulfill his promise to Wilhelm. Once he meets Sam, however, he falls in love and never lets her kn ...more
Thoughtful, haunting, and beautifully crafted, right down to the final twist.
Heavily skim- read this book, perhaps my score shouldn't count?

Without giving anything away, I'll say that the beginning of this book really got me, I loved it. The Christmas Truce was haunting. Could not wait to see what happened. Then... I read further and found that the HUGE moral issue at the center of this book kept me from thoroughly reading it in its entirety. I read just enough to understand the story, and know what happens at the end.

And that it all I will say. Moral issues much.
During the WWI Christmas truce in 1914, a British soldier is given a photo by a German soldier and the British soldier, Hal, promises to find his enemy's English girlfriend and let her know her fiance is alive and thinking of her. Things change when he meets and falls in love with her himself and never gives her the message. Interesting details of WWI and a great plot. Lags a little in spots, but the ending more than makes up for it. Expect a surprise.
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