Nicki's Reviews > My Dear I Wanted To Tell You

My Dear I Wanted To Tell You by Louisa Young
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May 21, 12

bookshelves: historical-fiction, fiction, ww1, r-j-book-club
Read in February, 2012

** spoiler alert ** Now, I am a sucker for First World War stories. That period of history is endlessly fascinating to me, so this book was a no-brainer buy for me. Real moth to the flame territory.

I got the Kindle version and absolutely raced through it. The book follows Riley Purefoy, a working class boy who has tried to better himself from a very young age through his friendship with the Waveney family.

Riley is in love with Nadine Waveney and, happily enough, she loves him right back. Class matters not to them, but Nadine's middle-class mother is less keen on the match. As Riley's hopes founder, the shame and confusion of a drunken liaison leads him to enlist soon after war is declared.

From there, the author splits her focus between a number of characters: Riley and his commanding officer, Peter Locke, in the trenches; Nadine in London, desperate to find a purpose; Julia Locke, Peter's wife, a woman struggling to find her identity with her husband gone; and Rose Locke, Peter's cousin, a nurse at a hospital for men who've suffered severe wounds of a particular kind.

For me, Riley really comes alive as a character when he is wounded in action. It's the nature of his wound and his slow road to dealing with it that really makes the difference. There's a scene with the young daughter of one of his men that had me blubbing like a baby.

Nadine finds a purpose, against her mother's wishes and really throws herself into it. She goes from a pampered girl to a young woman deliberately placing herself in situations that most women of her generation couldn't begin to comprehend, never mind handle. But whether that's because of an inner strength or because she simply wants to blot out her own pain is open to discussion.

Of the Locke clan, Rose is the strongest character. She encounters Riley when he is sent to her hospital. She's practical and straightforward where Julia is silly and empty-headed. With almost a century separating us, I found it difficult to understand Julia, a woman whose whole self-worth and identity hangs on her husband. The things Julia does and the choices she makes are alien to me. She didn't really add anything to the novel for me. As for Peter, the author uses him to show how men were damaged in the Great War even if they weren't physically injured. However, his main purpose in the story seemed to be as the hole in Julia's life.

There were some parts of the book that I found a little disconcerting, not because of the subject matter, but because the style of writing lapsed occasionally into stream-of-consciousness. Overall, though, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction.
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