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The Return of a Soldier

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  3,835 Ratings  ·  388 Reviews
The Return of the Soldier is a novel by English novelist Rebecca West regarding Captain Chris Baldry, a soldier whose reintegration to the British mainstream society is not easy, after he returns home during The First World War.
Paperback, 102 pages
Published October 21st 2010 by Lits (first published 1918)
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LadyCalico She doesn't try to tell the whole story of World War I in a novella, just a few weeks of one soldier's life, and that is enough, and that is…moreShe doesn't try to tell the whole story of World War I in a novella, just a few weeks of one soldier's life, and that is enough, and that is magnificent The story is more on the nature and reality of what it means to love than the nature and reality of war.(less)
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Steven  Godin
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I shudder to think of what soldiers have to witness whist taking to the battlefield, regardless of what war they were fighting in. Some return home bathed in glory, but for others mental anguish and post traumatic stress can be emotionally paralyzing. What though of shell shock?, unable to remember the horrors of war would surely be a blessing?, but then again not. For loved ones back at home have to pick up the fragmented pieces of someones lost memories, and welcome back a complete stranger.

Re
...more
Warwick
Aug 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll tell you I think the Second World War was much more comfortable because in the First World War the position of women was so terrible, because there you were, not in danger. Men were going out and getting killed for you and you'd much prefer they weren't. […] There was a genuine humanitarian feeling of guilt about that in the first war. It was very curious, you see. There I sat on my balcony in Leigh-on-Sea and heard guns going in France. It was a most peculiar war. It was really better, in
...more
Duane
This review contains spoilers.

Chris Baldry is the soldier in the novel, an English soldier returning from the battlefield of WWI, and he is suffering shell-shock which has erased the last 15 years of his memory. He is returning to three women; Kitty, his wife who he does not remember at all; Jenny, his cousin, who lives in the household, who he remembers as a younger girl; and Margaret, a girl he loved in his youth and believes now that he still loves. It seemed to me that two of the three women
...more
Cecily
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"?

PLOT
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 reall
...more
Chrissie
I knew immediately when I started this that I was hooked. The writing grabbed me from the start. Then later I marveled at how expertly the characters were drawn; what they did and said and thought all meshed perfectly. Finally what fascinated me was the theme, the book's central question. Do you force a person to recognize the truth even if that truth may lead to unhappiness? This is a perfect book to discuss in a book club. Discussion is sure to be lively.

I adore how Rebecca West draws places
...more
Laura
Aug 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
K.D. Absolutely
Sep 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Dannii Elle
This slim volume contains an entire era and acts as a spokesperson for a generation of men lacking a voice of their own. This was a poignant and painful read, on times, but told an important story with the most beautifully evocative and empathetic of language. I was enthralled in the characters and the almost voyeuristic insight into the historical gentry.
Teresa Proença
"Pegou nela ao colo, levou-a por entre as colunas e depô-la num nicho acima do altar. Um intenso raio de luar iluminou-a, e naquele momento era impossível determinar se os seus cabelos eram brancos como prata ou amarelos como ouro, e ele sentiu de novo a exultação de saber que era indiferente se fossem brancos. O seu amor era imutável. Isso mesmo lhe disse ao fazê-la descer do nicho. E ao dizê-lo sentiu o corpo dela dissolver-se em nada nos seus braços. Então, as colunas que tão duras se erguiam ...more
Jonfaith
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The old man's smile continues to be lewd and benevolent; he is still not more interested in me than in the bare-armed woman. Chris is wholly enclosed in his intentness on his chosen crystal. No one weeps for this shattering of our world.

This was a wonderful first novel, one written before the Armistice and yet it exhibited some carelessness. This otherwise ebullient story of a shell shocked story unable to remember his wife or the last fifteen years instead longs for an earlier entanglement -- w
...more
Viji  (Bookish endeavors)
"If this be the truth,
Let me remain in the blissful ignorance.."


It was a story that made me remember all the sad songs that I've heard.. So touching.. Heartbreaking.. True lovers getting separated is something no one is happy with.. But sure has it created many a masterpiece in literature.
This is a 'truth is bitter,but you've got to accept it' type of story.. There is a beautiful romance going on.. And there is a scorned woman.. A lost child.. Sense of betrayal,though in a different shade.. Sou
...more
Renee M
I'm still in that haze of amazement after you read something that is unexpectedly superb. The gorgeous sumptuously turned sentences that make a treasure even of disdain. The layers of emotion. This may be an entirely perfect piece of writing. I can't believe I didn't come across it in one of my classes. I should have. But then of course I wouldn't have had the delight of discovering this tiny glittering trove.

P. S. Elizabeth Klett does an extraordinary reading for Librivox.
Obsidian
Please note that I gave this book 4.5 stars, but rounded it up to 5 stars on Goodreads.

I read this story for The Dead Writers Society, 2016 Genre Fiction August 2016 book.

This story is (expletive) up. Seriously. You have a husband and wife separated by World War I. The husband's cousin is living with the wife and seems to sit around with constantly wet eyes thinking about "their Chris". And then the wife (Kitty) finds out that her husband who she loves is wounded with amnesia/shell shock and do
...more
Lauren
Jun 24, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jessica
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
Margaret
Jun 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Moi
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
SCARABOOKS
Dec 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
È un piccolo capolavoro di raffinatezza. In cui, se c’è qualcosa di eccessivo è ancora la raffinatezza. Una cosa alla Henry James, per capirci. Intanto raffinatezza stilistica: una sintesi tra lirismo e modernismo veramente riuscita. E poi raffinatezza del modo in cui è costruita la trappola della trama, dello scavo psicologico e infine della tecnica con cui viene girato davanti al lettore il prisma delle possibilità, dei possibili esiti. Finchè con un colpo secco, nell’ultima paginetta, più col ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
How must you live your life?


Captain Chris Baldry had gone to war, leaving his wife Kitty and the pain of the death of their only child. He came back shell-shocked, all memories of his last fifteen years completely erased, and could only remember his love for his first sweetheart (now married to another yet still loves him) before he met and married his wife who is now a complete stranger to him. At the periphery is a childhood friend, Jenny, whom he remembers differently, yet likewise fiercely l
...more
Chris

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
Veronique
Jul 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stars-4-0, 2016
This is a little gem of a book. At first, such a simple story of a hurt soldier coming back home from the frontline, but in fact much more. Even the title, so straightforward, takes on a new meaning by the end. This novel reminded me somehow of the saying - "Still waters run deep”.

West’s story reflects the ripple effects of war, first from the point of view of the women staying at home, waiting continually for the return of their loved ones, then through the soldier suffering the effects of bein
...more
Mike Robbins
Aug 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Before I read this, I had known of Rebecca West only through her famous book on Yugoslavia, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. Born in London in 1892, she had little formal education, her family being in genteel poverty. She trained as an actress, but seems to have acted little, becoming a sufragette and then the lover of H.G. Wells. She turned to writing and had a distinguished career in serious journalism. She also wrote a number of novels, but it seems unlikely that most are widely read now. The Ret ...more
James
Jan 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newberry-library
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
Susan Arnold
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was assigned to read this novella for my Modern British Literature class. I didn't love it, but I thought it was very good. I think I could love it if I didn't have to read and annotate the whole thing for an assignment.
I did not see the twists and turns coming and the ending really surprised me. I actually found it to be kind of morbid. It kept me on my toes, that's for sure. I think I like the book more because of how it ended.
Vale
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Il ritorno del soldato è un breve romanzo che ha per temi il ricordo e la dolcezza del sentire. La storia è ambientata in Inghilterra quando in Europa siamo nelle fasi finali della Prima guerra mondiale. Il protagonista, a seguito di un'esplosione sul campo di battaglia, ha perso la memoria, o meglio non ricorda gli ultimi quindici anni della sua vita. Pur consapevole dei suoi doveri verso la giovane moglie decide di frequentare la ragazza che amava un tempo e che per sfortunate coincidenze avev ...more
Adam Dalva
Dec 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really good novella - it strikes me as the platonic ideal of an Ian McEwan star-crossed love novel with a surprising dab of Salinger. Dismissed for far too long, this is a quick and compelling read with three moments of memorable beauty. Margaret is an all-timer of a character and the moment of her meeting with Chris is extraordinary (to avoid spoilers, I can't really talk about the plot at all. There is essentially one plot move in this book, and it's a cliche, yes, but it's worth finding for ...more
Vasha7
May 29, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
TheSkepticalReader
Sep 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
An absolutely wonderful, under-appreciated work of classic.

The Return of the Soldier sort of reminds of Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway in the way that while this book’s central figure is one who has been through war, it’s not shoving the reader into a meaningful discussion about the effects of war on a man. It takes a roundabout approach to understanding how war, death, and tragedy affect’s a person’s psyche. Even though Chris is clearly the “soldier” who has returned from war, he rarely gets a chance to
...more
Amy Hawthorne
Jan 29, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
3.5 stars!
I enjoyed the writing style of this short novel immensely to begin with it is rich in simile, metaphor and feeling but it became too repetitive by the end.
I also didn't really like any of the characters. Kitty the wife I sympathized with most although she wasn't heroic in the slightest in how she dealt with her heroic husband. We are pushed into hating Margaret through Jenny's eyes and I did. Chris, the soldier, seemed so innocent in his shell shock and child like, so far removed from
...more
Leslie
Jun 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, guardian-1000, war
I listened to the Elizabeth Klett recording available at LibriVox - she is an excellent narrator!

The descriptions are beautifully written. The story itself was sad, rather than tragic, and the horrors of WW1 are very much in the background. One reason that this didn't get a higher rating from me is that the class-conscious snobbery exhibited by Kitty and Jenny rasped on my nerves. I have read other books that have this same attitude that didn't bother me so I don't know what it was -- maybe the
...more
Miriam
Jan 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  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.
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Cicely Isabel Fairfield, 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 Times, the New York Herald Tribune ...more
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“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.” 13 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.” 10 likes
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