Laura's Reviews > A Very Long Engagement

A Very Long Engagement by Sébastien Japrisot
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's review
Aug 14, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: world-war-i, war
Read in June, 2002

Perhaps this is better in the original French? It opens promisingly enough: on a dark January night in 1917, five soldiers are hauled up to the bizarrely named Bingo Crépuscule trench and forced into No Man’s Land as punishment for wounding themselves in order to get out of the war. Ostensibly, by the next day all are killed by German fire. However, a letter sent in 1919 to the fiancée of one of the dead soldiers leads her to believe otherwise. She embarks on a search to trace anyone who might know what actually happened, a search made both more difficult and more interesting by her physical limitations (she’s wheelchair bound) and the devastation of post-war France.

Mathilde’s search is certainly intriguing, if a bit circuitous. Also intriguing are the unfolding stories of the five soldiers' lives and war time service. However, some of the characters are a bit coarse. It’s a decent mystery and an interesting look into the nightmare of World War I, but not the most compelling novel I’ve ever read.
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