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My Dear I Wanted to Tell You #1

L'inverno si era sbagliato

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Inghilterra, 1915. Come ogni mattina, Julia compie i rituali dell'attesa: lucida la casa alla perfezione, indossa l'abito più elegante che possiede e si acconcia i capelli, accorda il violoncello e poi si siede alla finestra. E aspetta. Aspetta che la promessa venga mantenuta, che suo marito Peter torni dal fronte. Anche Nadine aspetta, ripensando come ogni giorno a quell'amore tenero e spensierato sbocciato a Londra, sotto la neve d'inverno. Quello che nutre per Riley è un amore impossibile, contrastato aspramente dai genitori di Nadine. Ed è proprio per conquistarli che Riley è partito per il fronte, per quella guerra lampo che, dicevano tutti, sarebbe durata soltanto un inverno. Ma l'inverno si era sbagliato. Rose non ha tempo di aspettare. Infermiera in prima linea nel conflitto, ha visto troppi uomini feriti nel corpo quanto nell'anima aspettare soltanto una cosa, la morte. E c'è un filo sottile, fragile e capriccioso, fatto di messaggi dalla trincea, che Rose ha visto troppe volte spezzarsi. Julia, Nadine e Rose sanno che quella maledetta guerra è una lunga attesa ma, unite dalla medesima determinazione e dall'imprevedibilità del destino, scopriranno che quest'attesa può essere interrotta solo in un modo: con il coraggio dei loro cuori.

351 pages, Hardcover

First published March 17, 2011

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About the author

Louisa Young

15 books147 followers
Louisa Young is a history graduate, and worked as a journalist for British national newspapers and magazines for some years. Her first book was A Great Task of Happiness (1995), the life of Kathleen Bruce, her grandmother, the sculptor and wife of Scott of the Antarctic. She followed that with her Egyptian trilogy of novels: Baby Love (which was listed for the Orange Prize), Desiring Cairo and Tree of Pearls. They were followed by The Book of the Heart, a cultural history of our most symbolic organ. She has also published the Lionboy trilogy of children’s novels, written with her then ten-year-old daughter under the pseudonym Zizou Corder and two further children's novels, Lee Raven Boy Thief and Halo. .
Her 2011 bestseller My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You, which was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2011 and the Wellcome Book Prize, was a Richard and Judy Book Club choice, and the first ever winner of the Galaxy Audiobook of the Year. It was followed by two sequels, The Heroes' Welcome and Devotion, and a memoir, You Left Early: A True Story of Love and Alcohol, about her relationship with the composer Robert Lockhart.

Her most recent book is a novel, Twelve Months and a Day.

She lives in London.


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5 stars
1,642 (27%)
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132 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 744 reviews
Profile Image for Lance Greenfield.
Author 122 books234 followers
July 17, 2015
Until I was almost half way through this book, I was thinking There's not much point in reading this, as the title says it all. I could see it coming. One of the main characters would meet a violent death with so many things left unsaid. I was wrong!

This book is definitely worth reading.

It is multi-threaded, which I always love. The love stories are varied and bring out the contrasts in the way different people deal with situations and with the people closest to themselves.

There is a great deal about the effects of war and of class distinctions.

An image of the templated postcard for the use of returning injured soldiers which inspired Louisa Young to write this story appears on the back cover, suitably completed to match the characters in the book. I have posted a photo of this card with the book description.

I don't go along with Tatler's comment, 'Birdsong for the new millennium.' I admit that don't really understand it. Apart from anything else, I really don't think that it is fair to compare the two books. But then, I may be biased, as Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War is one of my all time favourites. Also, how can a book about WW1 be something for the new millennium?

One strong aspect of the book that I found really interesting and thought-provoking, were the descriptions of the early days of plastic surgery. Great advances in this field have always been made as a consequence of the horrific injuries inflicted on combatants in wars. Others benefit, of course, but which set of patients appreciate those benefits the most?

Quote (definition):
Dismember: to take to bits.
Remember: to put back together.

As with most books which really do get inside the stories of war, one is left with the thought Why would we ever let this happen again? But we do. We never learn.

I was only awarding My Dear three stars when I reached the half-way point, but it thoroughly deserved four or more by the time I read the final pages.
Profile Image for Biblibio.
131 reviews50 followers
December 24, 2011
A novel that didn't quite seem to know what it wanted to be, My Dear I Wanted to Tell You is a surprisingly rounded WWI story that goes beyond the typical narrative. Louisa Young writes best when describing the harsh realities of war and makes no concessions regarding uncomfortable yet true situations. And yet My Dear I Wanted to Tell You also attempts to be a romance book, and there precisely it comes to a screeching halt.

The characters in My Dear I Wanted to Tell You enter the story strangely underdeveloped - their motives and reasons for falling in love are never quite explained - and never quite recover. Though the reader spends ample time with them, there is little to grasp, little to relate to. Young shines in writing about their world and their surroundings, far less their characters and inner workings.

The writing, too, doesn't quite know where to fit in. At times, Young's writing is stellar, particularly in her descriptions of war (from all directions - the front, the nurses, those comfortably at home, those less comfortably at home...). Other times, however, the writing feels stilted and awkward, with forced exclamations making their way into the soldiers' speech just to make them sound more realistic. It's a jarring shift, one that can easily throw the reader off balance.

While there were aspects I liked and admired very much, on the whole this is a novel that felt too unbalanced to be truly good. Character development was weak (with the exception of one standout character who was repeatedly sidelined, alas), as were the somewhat unnecessary and unexplained love stories (which I felt the book could have done without, or at least have had them at a much lower key). Recommended mostly to readers with a particular interest in WWI, if only for its sharp historical gaze. Not a bad book by any means, but one that is unsure of itself and remains quite rough around the edges.
Profile Image for Nette.
635 reviews60 followers
August 27, 2011
One of the most powerful books I've read about WWI: remember the battlefield scenes in "Saving Private Ryan"? This book is full of equally graphic and brilliant scenes. There's also a sweet and realistic love story and a fascinating subplot about reconstructive facial surgery. A couple of reviewers here were QUITE put off by a one-paragraph description of gay sex and the occasional use of the "f word." Ooh, shame on the author for making soldiers say naughty words when mud and rats and corpses and body parts are raining down on top of them. "Really, that sort of profanity is so unnecessary!" Honestly, I want to track these people down and punch them in their fucking necks, but Goodreads would probably ban me.
272 reviews2 followers
August 8, 2011
I pre-release reviewed this novel for a UK bookseller.

Although I can't quite pin-point why, there was something about this book which really sucked me into the world of those within it. The writting is nothing outstanding, the story doesn't have any dramatic climaxes or surprising plot twists, but Young writes in such a way that is still gripping and compelling from start to finish.

Like many novels, this is based during World War 1, but unlike other books of it's type, the focus is on the 'normal' lives of those involved. We meet Rose, the cousin of a serving offier working in a rehabilitation unit for wounded soldiers, Nadine, a young VAD doing her bit at home and abroad, and Julia, a young wife who struggles to find a way to do her part as anything other than a beautiful wife. All of these women are connected with Riley Purefoy and Peter Locke, out serving in the trenches, and the story looks at the impact of the war on all of these characters regardless of their role in the fight and the way in which it carves out their futures. The novel leaves you wondering 'what happens next?' and 'what will the overall impact of the war be on these young lives?'.

I wouldnt say this novel set me alight, but I did find it a brilliant read, and the closer I got to the end, I struggled more and more to put it down! Well worth a read.

Profile Image for Denise.
36 reviews1 follower
April 5, 2013
This book is constructed around two little-known details of WW1 history. The first is the postcard that the book gives its name to. To save time and unnecessary distress to loved ones back home, the army designed a standard postcard for injured men to complete. This allowed bad news to travel swiftly back to England without having to go through the censors, but also restricted the men to using an emotionless tick box system.

The postcard started with the words ‘My Dear …….. I wanted to tell you, before my telegram arrives, that I was admitted to …… Clearing Station on ………”. The first blank was the space for the soldier to write the name of his wife/mother/lover; the second was for the name of the medical clearing station; and the third was for the date of his injury.

The postcard continues, providing the soldier with a tick box to indicate the severity of his injury. He could delete one word from the sentence – ‘I have a slight / serious wound” – and this important option is really the centre of the book and a passionate love story. A small hesitation - an indecision between worrying a lover with the knowledge of a serious wound, or protecting her by leaving the word 'slight wound ' on the card, leads to a tangle of misunderstanding, betrayal and mistrust.

The second true historical story that is central to this novel is the work of Harold Gillies – a doctor who was also an Army Major. After experiencing front line fighting in the trenches, Major Gillies returned home to open a hospital in Aldershot which was dedicated to facial reconstruction; treating the facial wounds that were very common during trench fighting and carrying out pioneering work in plastic surgery to try to make his patients look as normal as possible. After the Battle of the Somme, Gillies treated 2,000 cases of jaw and facial mutilation and a key part of this novel is the telling of the tragic stories of some of the patients that were treated during this time.

Louisa Young writes her novels with a real historical knowledge and authenticity. The technical descriptions of the facial surgery, the emotional descriptions of the despair of young men who found themselves turned into monsters by one bullet or bomb were deeply moving. One beautifully written scene describes the horrified reaction of a barmaid when encountering one of the soldiers who is in the middle of facial reconstruction; the scene is not rushed or overplayed and the sense of sadness and empathy is overwhelming.

The characters and stories in the novel have stayed with me for several months. Unusually for me I can remember scenes and plots in vivid detail, which is definitely the sign of a good book.

Profile Image for Belinda Vlasbaard.
3,261 reviews50 followers
July 1, 2022
4 sterren - Nederlandse paperback

Voor de liefhebbers van Oorlog en terpentijn 'Als je één boek over de gevolgen van de Eerste Wereldoorlog leest, laat het dan dit zijn.' - The Times 

Londen. April 1919. De Grote Oorlog is ten einde. Daarvoor, toen de wereld nog zo anders was, is Nadine Waveney in een uitspatting van verliefdheid met haar jeugdliefde Riley Purefoy getrouwd. Maar Riley is gewond en verminkt teruggekeerd; een normaal leven lijkt onbegrijpelijk en liefde onbevattelijk.

Terwijl ze op huwelijksreis zijn in een Europa dat in as ligt, verlangen ze, een ieder voor zich en in stilte. In plaats van een huwelijk vol liefde en passie is er afhankelijkheid en medelijden.

Peter Locke, Rileys voormalige kolonel, is geestelijk getraumatiseerd teruggekeerd naar Locke Hill in Kent. Zijn neurotische vrouw Julia probeert met hun pasgeboren zoon een enigszins normaal gezinsleven op gang te brengen, maar dat wordt bemoeilijkt door Peters herinneringen aan de oorlog.

Toch ziet niet iedereen de toekomst somber in, Rose Locke – Peters nichtje en Rileys voormalige verpleegster – beseft dat er voor haar als vrouw onafhankelijkheid in het verschiet ligt. Voor hen die gevochten hebben, voor diegenen van wie de wonden geheeld zijn en voor de personen die achtergebleven zijn, is 1919 het jaar waarin de realiteit onder ogen gezien moet worden, waarin men hoop na wil streven en een nieuw begin het ultieme doel is.

Op zoek naar een nieuw begin is een dappere en briljante ode aan een periode waarin de oorlog diepe wonden heeft nagelaten, en het is even ontroerend als inspirerend.

Heel mooi geschreven. De verhaallijnen zijn duidelijk te volgen en het gaf zeker momenten van zakdoekjes bij de hand. De grote oorlog is al meer als 100 jaar geleden en voor mij niet zo bekend als de periode van de tweede wereld oorlog omdat ik daarvan mondelinge getuigenissen hoorde van mijn oma, mama en papa.
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,746 reviews1,197 followers
September 4, 2018
The explicit theme of the book is the effect that the First World War had on people’s lives – not just those who fought but those left behind – all of the characters lives are turned upside down, all have faced horrors and all have to face a world where “it” is “over” and they have to rebuild their lives knowing they are forever affected and having to choose (as a poetic piece at the end of the story sets out) whether to allow the horror to overwhelm them/continue to try to shut it out or whether to accept it and move on through a healing process.

The work of the Doctors in facial reconstruction is deliberately described in detail as the book is largely a tribute to them (through family links of the authors) and this lends the book an unusual dimension (and unlike say in many books by Ian McEwan the detail given is not superfluous/pretentiously relayed but crucial to the book and described with insight and feeling via the passion of nurse Rose).

A good although not brilliant book – I preferred Atonement which had much more depth (for example this book is very much written in the third-person multi-narrator but with lots of insights into characters thoughts – the very idea Atonement challenges).
Profile Image for Jacki (Julia Flyte).
1,235 reviews169 followers
August 26, 2016
This is the story about two soldiers during World War 1 and the women left behind in England who love them. There are five main characters. Riley Purefoy, from a working class background, loves upper class Nadine Waverney despite her mother's disapproval. He volunteers as a soldier at the start of World War 1 - given the choice between volunteering for a year or for the duration of the war, he chooses the latter, because he doesn't want to spend an entire year in the army. His commanding officer will be Peter Locke, who has left his wife Julia and cousin Rose behind in England. While Julia pines for her husband, Rose signs up as a nurse in a hospital specialising in facial reconstructions.

The first half of the book is about the experiences that the five have adapting to the realities of war and the shifts it brings about in their relationships. In the second half, Riley suffers a serious injury which will affect all of the characters in different ways.

I have mixed feelings about this book. It did a very good job of conveying the various facets of war, the experience for those in the trenches, in the hospitals and stranded at home. There were parts that were beautifully written but at other times the choppiness of the narrative became hard to take. I didn't really feel caught up in it until the second half, when it settles down and became (for me) far more involving and moving. The ending is somewhat contrived, but also genuinely satisfying.

The characters could have been better developed. Riley and Nadine's relationship is the central thread, but too often we were told about how they felt for one another rather than feeling it. Rose is a wonderful character, but she is frequently sidelined. Peter is nice enough but less than interesting and his wife Julia is a vapid and tedious character on whom far too much time is wasted. Clearly that couple were included to show a broader canvas of reactions to the war, but they didn't develop in any significant way or add much to the book. Another review here mentions how you can see the author's "workings" as she constructed the story, and that's how I felt also.
Profile Image for Alex Nye.
Author 10 books31 followers
May 13, 2012
Have just finished reading My Dear I Wanted to Tell You and really enjoyed it. Hadn't realised that Louisa Young is also the author of LION BOY, so I've just started to read that too.

The novel is set during the First World War, but tells the story in a very original way, much more so than most historical fiction. We really get inside the heads of the characters. What really grabbed me at the beginning of the book was the spiky character of the boy Riley, when he falls in the Round Pound in Kensington, and ends up being linked or connected to a 'well-to-do' family which takes him out of his own class background to some extent. What I liked about this was the candid way in which the class differences and prejudices were looked at, in a manner that was fresh and straightforward. Riley's own awareness of trying to lift himself towards better things, and his family's reaction to this are all quite evocatively told.

The writing style is very pleasurable to read, beautifully wordy and almost a touch indulgent - but I like that. what's wrong with being a little indulgent, especially when the reading matter is so difficult? I suppose this is what sweetens the pill to some extent, because the topic is a grim one.

For me personally it was an eye-opener to another world - both of my grandfathers died very young because of that war and I therefore never met either of them. My own father (who sadly died in 2006) grew up in a fatherless household, never knowing his own father... and I always grew up with a profound awareness of this. My other grandfather joined the war at 17 and must have had a similar experience to Riley in the book. This was an insight for me, into the hidden world of my own grandparents, and the author managed to make it accessible in a modern way. I would highly recommend this book. Although dealing with such shocking and brutal material, it also carries a ring of hope with it. Wasn't too sure if the pill was a little bit over-sweetened towards the end of the book - but, what the hell? Enjoyed it anyway.
Profile Image for Jess Schira.
Author 9 books37 followers
February 21, 2011
I am going to begin by saying that Louisa Young has a very lovely, lyrical writing style. It was her writing, more than the actual story that kept me turning the pages. As far as the novel itself goes, I am far less impressed.

To me, this book simply had to much going on. I feel that the author felt that she had a whole bunch of things she wanted to write about that included art, beauty, WWI, and young love, and crammed them all together in one story. She did a wonderful job of cramming, and the subject matters do flow together nicely, but she failed to create characters that inspired me, or even ones that I even cared about, and if I don’t care about the characters, I have a difficult time enjoying the book.

The other problem I had with the book was a minor issue, but it is a personal pet peeve. The other switched from using one character’s first name to their last. I realize that she did this as a means of illustrating the changes in the characters life, but none the less it made me a little crazy.

The novel is orderly and nothing about it feels rushed. While it is a bit heavy to be a beach read, it would be a lovely choice for anyone who is looking to pass a rainy afternoon lost in another world.
Profile Image for Lydia Laceby.
Author 1 book62 followers
July 18, 2012
Originally Reviewed at Novel Escapes

I found My Dear I Wanted to Tell You equal parts fascinating and horrifying. Although heavy with romance and war, this novel portrayed none of the romance of war. It took me a while to sink into the plot and the characters, but once I did they appeared in my thoughts when I put the novel down and although I enjoyed this novel and thought about it when I wasn’t reading it, I felt it could have been much more captivating.

I didn’t anticipate this war story to be so heavy on the romance, and at times I wasn’t too sure of Riley and Nadine’s love, feeling it was never fully developed before he heads off to war. This storyline however was diluted juxtaposed against the unravelling of Julia and Peter’s relationship, and Rose’s lack of marital options, without which I suspect this novel wouldn’t have worked.

This novel further opened my eyes to how an entire generation was altered and affected by the war, especially how women’s roles shifted during the void the men left. This was especially evident with the dotting housewife, Julia, struggling with the feeling that she had no purpose with her husband away and striving to be the perfect housewife for his return. I loved how Rose, who was never expected to marry and felt ineffective because of it, suddenly felt she had a place in the world.

I was left wondering throughout how all the characters were going to piece their stunted lives back together, whether they even could or wanted to. I thought the ending was well written, but will refrain from explaining why as not to ruin anything, I did find the last scenes interesting and even left me wanting a bit more, although I don’t know if it would have even been appropriate to go beyond the point the author did.

The plastic surgery plot line that developed was fascinating. The unveiling of the developing surgery was written so eloquently that it never seemed too heavy on medical jargon and I understood it completely. I was also intrigued with the psychology that young Riley uses to keep himself afloat and to see how different his reaction to the war is to Peter’s.

The prose took some getting used to and not having read any of Young’s previous works, I’m not sure if it’s her style, but the lengthy descriptive sentences with excessive comma’s aggravated me at times, but that could have been just me. I like description intertwined in the story, not thrown so blatantly at me. This probably went hand in hand with the slower start I found to this novel.

If you’re looking for a romantic war time novel with some interesting medical history, check out My Dear I Wanted to Tell You.
Profile Image for Meg - A Bookish Affair.
2,444 reviews188 followers
July 27, 2012
3.5. This book takes place during World War I, a time period that I have not read very much historical fiction about. I found myself wondering why World War II seems to be such a more popular time period as far as historical fiction goes. Does anyone have any idea why this is?

This book focuses on the stories of two couples and those surrounding them. You never really get to find out about what attracts both couples to each other, which I think would have been nice to know especially considering what happens to both couples throughout the book (I don't want to give anything away). Since in the book we only really get to see what the couples are like once they've fallen in love, I felt like I didn't really get to connect with them. Not having that background also made it difficult to see what the motive was for what the characters do throughout the book. I think there could have been more to help the reader engage a little bit more with all of the major characters.

Interestingly enough, the one character that I really connected with was Rose, the nurse who takes care of Riley after he has sustained a bunch of really bad injuries from the war. I felt like you really got a good sense of who she was and her thoughts and her feelings, which made it much easier to connect with her. Not being able to connect with any of the main characters I think definitely hurt the book.

Another aspect of the book that I really liked is the information about some of the surgeries that were performed during this time. It was sort of amazing what the hospital was able to do in order to try to fix Riley's jaw (they give him sort of a prosthesis)after it's blown off during the war. I guess I didn't realize how far advance surgery was way back then. That part of the book was definitely fascinating to me.

Bottom line: A decent read with interesting details!
Profile Image for Elaine.
777 reviews360 followers
March 27, 2012
What, another World War 1 book? Is there something about the fact that no one is left alive to tell -- or criticize the veracity of -- the tale that has led to a recent flourishing (to the already robust genre) of trench literature, usually somehow connected to a story of the folks at home, maybe poets, maybe artsy? Anyway, yes, another one, and another good one. A real energy and lyricism to Young's writing, the "men" come to life, especially her hero, Riley, caught between two worlds, but the little sketched portraits of the troops and other minor characters are memorable as well. The central love story is vivid, felt, sexy and real too, and the prose moves.

Why not a 5? Well, she has some issues writing women. Julia, the 2nd female lead, is problematic, her learned helplessness as the beauteous object of desire seems more schematic idea than real -- so too Rose's asexuality (is she really THAT plain? or a repressed lesbian? the diametric pairing with Julia seems false to both women). And there are two witchy witchy mothers that would seem monstrously misogynist if written by a man -- Young's gentle touch fails her there.

Still though, any novel that can still make you feel the pain and horror of hte trenches (or rather, imagine you can), and the visceral exhaustion and suffering of the nurses who also served (one passage where Young describes nursing conditions of "8 days on the trot underwear", fleas, and cold water washing really hit home), while also being genuinely entertaining, is worth reading.

The passionate recounting of early plastic surgery -- the vanities AND the essential reconstructive work -- are also fascinating -- and make 1917 seem not so very far away.
572 reviews10 followers
October 15, 2012
My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louise Young poignantly portrays the horror of war, insightfully revealing the effects on men and women, soldiers and medical teams, those at the front and those at home. She uses three young women and two young men to carry much of the story and bases some of what she writes on real people and actual medical practices and advancements, particular in plastic surgery. When the war is over, all are wounded and needy. The ability to bear the unbearable gives them the strength to keep on. (Spoiler alert. Summary follows quotes.)

Young’s prose is skillful and memorable:

“… one of the many injustices of the war—a small one, in the big scheme, but still—was how the sweet-natured pretty-faced daughters of England were required to toughen up. A girl like Julia wasn’t made for it. Why should she have to” (87)?

“It seemed to Purefoy that if your legs are shot to pieces no one expects you to keep going, but if your nerve, the machinery of your self-control is shot to pieces, they do. It’s not your will, your desire, your willingness to fight on—it’s a separate part of you, but it’s one they don’t understand yet, because they never yet put this much on a soldier. Ainsworth had talked about that—how they had never before given heavy industry to war” (124).

“She knew now exactly what Riley had been talking about when he had said he didn’t exist. She knew now the hollow manic energy induced by living at crisis pitch all the time. It left you—well , it never left you: it rendered you brutalized, incapable, unthinking, unfeeling, scar tissue all over. No feeling at all. Wild. Everything was terribly remote and she was utterly impenetrable” (234).

Courage for the big troubles in life, patience for the small. And when you have laboriously finished your day’s efforts, go to sleep in peace. (Be of good cheer. God is awake.)” (264).

“For the next few days he watched the other patients. Patience. He was looking for good cheer among them. How did they bear it? How could they bear it? This was not a rhetorical question. He wanted to know how the others bore it, what they actually did to bear it, because he could not bear it. And he could not suddenly start to bear it just because it was over. No one ever wins a war, and wars are never over:” (265).

Working class Riley Purefoy and posh, aristocratic Nadine Waveney meet as children and become friends when Riley’s brains, talent and personality lead him to work in the household of a rich artist. When WWI begins, he enlists in the Army, survives his first experiences, and begins trying to cope with war, striving to come to terms with the disparity between the atrocities he does and sees in battle and his own moral code. He begins to have trouble communicating with Nadine, afraid to tell her real things, but he builds strong loyalties and friendship with comrades, especially his Captain, Peter Locke.

Nadine recognizes that Riley isn’t sharing with her, and in an effort to make a difference and understand him, she becomes a nurse. They begin to exchange real letters and even meet, finally consummating their relationship. When his jaw is blown off, though, he sends her a letter telling her he loves another to spare her the pain of living with him and his disfigurement, and he enlists his own nurse’s help in convincing Nadine to go away. Riley’s nurse is Locke’s cousin, a plain woman unlikely ever to marry as opposed to his wife Julia, a lady “bred and trained to be a beautiful wife and nothing else” (65).

Peter Locke creates part of his problem when he goes home on leave. He can’t bear to touch Julia despite her flirtatious attempts to be intimate because he’s done such monstrous things. Desire overcomes him in the night, but he practically rapes her and then, ashamed to his core, leaves without comment. She becomes pregnant, bears him a son, and, flounders, unable to mother the boy—her own mother takes him away—or to do anything useful to help Locke who spirals down, becoming an alcoholic.

All does end well, when the armistice is announced, in a Christmas reunion at Locke Hill, where Purefoy brings the drunken Locke, and Nadine accepts hospitality from Rose. Julia has burned her face with acids, attempting to hide signs of aging, but seems to feels more relief than anything when her son whom she’s fetched to see his father reacts to her bandages by attempting to comfort her, and she understands that “Peter needs me sane more than he needs me beautiful…” (324). After a brief exchange in which Purefoy and Nadine speak of horrors—“I killed.” “I let them die.”—she says, I think we should get married now, before anyone has a chance to think about it. Then whatever else, we’ll be safe together” (320) and Purefoy concurs, “It was the only thing they were sure of” 320).
Profile Image for ✝✝ Ⓓaisy ❣ ✝✝ .
493 reviews273 followers
October 15, 2013


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I wrecked my heart, cried so much, laughed, fell in love!

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I was deeply moved by the relationship between Riley Purefoy and Nadine....So sweet!!!!! But falling in love during in a war zone was never easy. Dayum, and their social class mattered so much too! Such a pain they put these young lovers through!

Riley and Nadine fell in love, Riley went to war, she become a nurse..... bam a telegram arrives, their life totally changes... terrible lie that made both miserable and hopelessly in love. They sacrificed, suffered and were in pain. Their love journey was not serene, but it was beautifully painful. But they found each other.
So so so broke my heart!!!!

"Nadine, We're here, we're alive, we love each other.Let's be happy"

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"He came straight to her.... His case fell to the floor as he snaked his arm round her waist and there was a tiny perfect pause before he kissed and kissed and kissed her" *my heart only can stand some much*

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"Now I know and I am part of it all and part of myself and him"

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I just adore this book! :) I will read over and over again.

Salute for all our soldiers serving in war zone. Prayers for safety there!

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My Riley

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My Nadine

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Profile Image for Susannah Hume.
Author 1 book5 followers
January 26, 2012
My dear I wanted to tell you is a 2011 novel by Lousia Young about young up-and-coming officer Riley Purefoy, the girl he loves, his CO, the girl he loves, and his cousin, whom nobody loves.

Having been spoiled by Good-bye To All That and All Quiet on the Western Front so far, I was a bit suspicious of this book when I first started reading it. I also picked it up for a third of the cover price at a remaindered books stand, which for a 2011 novel didn’t strike me as a good sign. However, this book turned out to be a decent read. Did a couple of interesting things, was appropriately gruesome, interesting characters, and some facinating detail about an aspect of the war which I had not previously considered.

Captain Purefoy and Major Peter Locke are both interesting, flawed characters, and the different paths they take to cope with the trenches are fascinating. The three women mostly function as lenses into women’s lives at the time, and Young can’t resist a bit of authorial-standpoint posturing about feminism, the role of women and social change. Surprisingly low body count for this type of book, but given the givens, I think people would still find it appropriately emotionally exhausting.

The plot was interesting, and did a couple of things I really didn’t expect with the main characterl. I found the narrative style a bit hard to follow; several times I had to go back and reread to try and figure out what had happened. The internal monologues got a bit tedious after a while - long blocks of italicised text as Captain Purefoy and ors debate internally this or that traumatic war-related issue they’re having. Somewhere in the middle I lost interest in the romance plot(s), and the ending was quite abrupt and a little underwhelming.

The story frequently focuses on the emotional toll of the war, in the trenches, in the hospitals, in the homes of England. I got a little bit bored of that after a while - the narration periodically crosses over into melodrama which made me skim, get confused and double back several times.

The writing style and subject matter have some pretensions to the literary, while at other times it behaves more like a genre historical. Would probably have benefited from deciding what it was - literary (less plot, more navel-gazing) or genre (more plot, less navel-gazing) and sticking with it.

Ultimately, this book got me through two plane rides and I was totally absorbed in it from beginning to end. A good book, which was only let down by a few cliches and an ending which was satisfying, but not much more than that.
Profile Image for Tara Chevrestt.
Author 27 books293 followers
March 25, 2011
I didn't like this much mainly because I really didn't like a single character except Rose and she's really not a "main player."

The main players are:

Riley: He has a bit of a same sex encounter and decides to run off to war to prove he's a real man, not a "nancy." I was terribly put off by this bit.. wasn't expecting it. His parts also contain the "f" word a lot. This did not bother me, but I know it will bother other readers. So make a note of that if you are offended by profanity.

Riley loves, Nadine, another main player. This love affair brings up the topic of social class. I liked how this novel shows how WWI brought together the classes and made relationships between the classes acceptable whereas they were frowned upon before the war.

Most of their love affair is through letters as Riley heads to war not too far into the novel. I didn't like their letters.. mundane, irrelevant, and too long.

Another main player is Peter. Ugh. Peter handles the war by drowning himself in booze and prostitutes.

His wife is equally repulsive, though her character raises another intriguing issue: Is being a housewife enough? Can a woman live without her man? She has issues. When her baby is born, she allows her mother to take it away. When her husband comes home on leave and does not wish to have relations with her, she goes bizerk and obsesses that she is not pretty and this and that. She's a very weak woman who needs male attention to feel useful.

There was one thing I liked though. I liked the facial reconstruction stuff. I didn't really get into the novel until the facial reconstruction came into it. Gruesome but absolutely fascinating. I also appreciate the parts of the story that dealt with people's reactions to facial injuries. Can you still love your man when his face is a mess? Will you be disgusted? It's interesting to see how different people react and how others must realize a monster on the outside does not necessarily mean a monster inside..

However, overall, I didn't love the story or the characters enough to rate it any higher. One point in its favor: The writing style slightly resembles Catherine Cookson's.
Profile Image for Christy.
19 reviews3 followers
May 31, 2011
When I first started reading this book I thought I had made a poor choice. But once we got to the turning point there was no going back. I couldn't put it down. MY DEAR I WANTED TO TELL YOU is one of the most engaging books I have read in quite some time.

The characters were interesting, sympathetic and flawed. The storyline hopped between London and France during WWI, a period in history that I have never taken much time to learn about. There is something in this book for just about everyone and I believe it will appeal to a huge audience. It is at heart, a love story, but there are so many other aspects to this book. It touches on women's impact during wartime, romance, tragedy, the class system, families, art and early reconstructive surgery methods. Of all these areas I found the reconstructive surgery passages the most interesting and informative.

As I stated before, it takes a while to get interested in this story. The first half of the book sets up the entire premise for the second half. I have to disagree with the reviewer who said she did not feel anything for any of the characters. I could completely empathize with Riley Purefoy, the protagonist, and I understand why he made the choices he did. At times this book was heart-wrenching and I felt absolutely miserable for what Riley had to endure. I will leave it at that so as not to give any spoilers.

Overall, I would highly recommend MY DEAR I WANTED TO TELL YOU. It was a quick read and one that I will not soon forget. I also feel a bit better informed in regards to WWI and Britain's impact. Read this book if you are remotely interested in any of the aformentioned themes. And most importantly...stick with it. The payoff is vast.
Profile Image for Penny.
349 reviews30 followers
August 23, 2013
This is an account of 5 people during world war 1. We meet Riley and Nadine prior to the war. He is working class and becomes a type of protegee for Nadine's family - until she has 'inappropriate' feelings for him. Nadine is a wealthy girl whose family disapprove. Meanwhile we meet Peter and Julia Locke who are upper class and Peter ends up in the trenches as Riley's commanding officer. Julia meanwhile descends into total breakdown as her life becomes meaningless and banal. Peter's cousin, Rose, makes herself useful as a nurse because no one was ever going to marry her anyway - or so she believes.

I listened to the audio version of this - read by Dan Stevens, alias Matthew Crawley. He does an excellent job of this story. The novel is a war romance but it is a deceptive title. I tried it because it was recommended but the title made it sound like very slushy romance - it's not at all.

Louisa Young does a wonderful job of making the characters immediately real and the reader is very quickly engaged in the story. At times the writing is exquisite with whole segments being placed together like pieces from a quilt - each whole and perfect but different. Young is particularly good at getting a person's thoughts with all their conflicts and prejudices, hopes and desparation spun out across the page. This leads you through the reasons the character chooses a certain path causing empathy with each person although there are wince inducing moments.

Loved it!
20 reviews1 follower
June 19, 2012
Mi sento in dovere di scrivere una recensione per questo libro ancora ingiustamente quasi sconosciuto. Nonostante il boom editoriale in Europa, noto che in Italia non sono in molti ad averlo sentito nominare.
Quanto a me, ringrazio il caso di avermici fatto posare gli occhi in libreria.
Ha la delicatezza di un romanzo romantico (in senso metastorico), la forza di un romanzo di denuncia, la disperazione delle storie che raccontano la verità, la voglia di vivere che infonde chi ha vissuto la morte. La storia sconvolgente di Riley Purefoy e Nadine Waveney muove il lettore attraverso vicessitudini e sofferenze altrui con il pungolo fisso nella mente del ricongiungimento, della giustizia, perché in un mondo giusto questo romanzo non si sarebbe nemmeno dovuto scrivere.
Trovo discutibile la scelta delle parole in copertina, la definizione di questo libro come un libro che parla di tre donne. Per me i protagonisti assoluti sono Riley e Nadine. Le storie intrecciate di Rose e di Julia e Peter sono indispensabili a rendere pieno un romanzo altrimenti scialbo e da leggere in spiaggia senza troppo impegno. Così com'è fatto, invece, merita anzi un po' di attenzione. Ed il cuore aperto a emozioni che vengono, ormai, dal secolo scorso. Ne consiglio la lettura a tutti. Bello.
Profile Image for Serena.
Author 1 book88 followers
July 10, 2012
My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young is a WWI novel and love story that illustrates the toll that war takes on couples from mere recruits to the officers that give them orders. Young’s novel examines social and monetary class distinctions, even providing slight nuances to the “poshies” in how they treat the working class. Truly, this is a love story — the story of Riley Purefoy and Nadine Waveney, childhood sweethearts separated by more than the war.

The narration sets it up so that readers get to know Nadine and Riley in their early years and the timid beginnings of their love, which helps not only anchor the emotional arc of the story but the connection readers feel to them both. Nadine is from an upper class family with artistic roots — her father is a famous conductor — and Riley is from a working class family. Both end up under the tutelage of Sir Arthur, a famous artist, who sees potential in Riley and Nadine. Eventually, they are separated by her parents who refuse to send her to Sir Arthur’s for lessons if Riley is still working there, which ultimately pushes Riley to see his fortunes through a different lens and join the military.

Read the full review: http://savvyverseandwit.com/2012/07/m...
Profile Image for Jo Ann.
594 reviews13 followers
September 22, 2011
I have read very little about The Great War, so I cannot make good comparisons in literature about this era. However, this was an eye-opener to me, about the war itself, societal changes during the war, ethics and mores, and an introduction to Major Harold Gillies, who made outstanding progress in maxillo-facial and plastic surgery during World War I, and later, mostly at Queen's Hospital in Sidcup, England.
The story is actually about Riley and Nadine, who meet while they're pre-teens and later fall in love despite their class differences: Riley's working-class, Nadine's upper class...and their parents won't let them forget it. In addition, there's Riley's commanding officer, Peter Locke, and his wife, Julia, and Peter's cousin, Rose. The novel is mainly about the 2 men and their wartime experiences, and the 3 women left behind...all 5 deal with the horrors of war in their own ways, with sometimes devastating results, sometimes poignant and powerful love.
I won't soon forget these characters or this book. Amazing.
Profile Image for Amy.
26 reviews
May 30, 2011
I received this book after winning a giveaway here on Goodreads. The book got off to a slow start. It took me around 5 days just to get to the middle of it, whereas I'm usually finishing a book by that time. I found the chapters depiciting Riley's time on the battlefield to be particularly difficult to get through. Granted, this is probably my own weakness, but when too many names are thrown at me at once, I tend to block them all out. Therefore, some of the (very) minor characters were no more than a blur to me, and when later references were made, I had no clue who they were.

That said, somewhere around the middle of the book, a spark was lit. I ripped through the last 200 pages or so at lightning speed, unable to wait and discover what would happen next. For me, that's the epitome of a good story.

The book was beautifully written, and I've come to the conclusion that not every book is meant to be read quickly. Instead, others are best enjoyed when savored.
Profile Image for Jo.
Author 4 books16 followers
May 20, 2014
Louisa Young doesn't spare us the horrific details of life on the Western Front. How can the handsome, talented artist Riley Purefoy go back to the life he had before war broke out, especially now he is so badly injured? How can he expect the beautiful and equally talented, Nadine to love him now? The novel not only focuses on what life was like for the soldiers fighting in France, but what it was like for the women left behind. I didn't want the book to end. The characters were so life-like, so real that I'm still thinking about them days later. Louisa Young explores aspects of the war that I never even knew about before, even though I have researched this period well. This novel will go down as one of my all-time favourite reads.
345 reviews4 followers
November 25, 2019
I would have given this book more stars but I found the ending to be all too neat and tidy. The trauma and devastation of the WWI is graphic and moving but the ending was a letdown. I am not a fan of happy endings though, so people who do like them will love this.
Profile Image for ALPHAreader.
1,102 reviews
June 1, 2011
The story begins in 1907, with a snowball to the head and an icy dip in a Kensington Gardens lake. Thus begins the friendship between working-class boy, Riley Purefoy, and the Waveney family of kind intellectual bohemians who take him in as one of their own.

Riley’s friendship with Nadine Waveney grows and prospers over the years, until they both come to a realization of love. But when Nadine’s mother objects to the unsuitable courtship Riley turns his mind to the war effort and naively signs up to fight ‘for the duration of the war’.

While fighting on the frontlines, Riley experiences the gruelling horrors of war. He is dehumanized and built up again by the barrage of gun fire.

While fighting, Riley befriends a young and sensitive commanding officer, Peter Locke. While Riley thinks of Nadine, Peter pines for his wife, Julia, back home. . .

Meanwhile, Julia and her cousin Rose are dealing with the war effort the way only women can. Julia is hell-bent on Peter coming home to a perfect little wife. Rose is working under the revolutionary doctor, Major Gillies, and helping him to patch-up wounded soldiers with horrendous facial scarring. Miles away and Nadine is also working as a nurse, helping wounded soldiers and imaging Riley’s face in all of them. . .

Five lives intertwine against the backdrop of a war to end all wars . . . and five very different battles are fought in the aftermath of armistice.

‘My Dear I Wanted to Tell You’ is the new novel from Louisa Young.

A war-time novel is bound to leave a reader with heavy heart and morose mind . . . it’s the ambiance of war that demands such intense feelings and dark observations. But Louisa Young’s novel is marked by brilliance for what it leaves behind. Days after I read the last page I was still thinking on this novel, I found my mind drifting back to the characters and still turning their stories over in my head. A war-time novel is meant to move you, but it’s the mark of a truly great novel that stays with you long after you’ve read the last line.

‘My Dear I Wanted to Tell You’ takes its title from a letter writing format designed to encourage young soldiers to express their feelings on the page and vent their thoughts. As the novel progresses, we read the letter exchanges between characters and the foreboding they hold for when the war is done and dusted. Julia and Peter write stunted words, unsure in their tender marriage, and unknowing of each other. While Peter struggles with his fractured soul under cannon fire, Julia is back home practicing to be the perfect home-maker upon his return. Their worlds are far apart and the letters mark the distance.

Meanwhile, Nadine and Riley write candid outpourings of love and missing. Riley is honest and relentless in his chaotic letters home. Nadine yearns on the page, but writes unbridled letters of honesty and humour;

“. . . Please dearest Riley let me know when I can come to you. I am going mad here, dropping things, not sleeping, not eating. Mad! Jean says she has never seen a girl so lovesick. It’s not just my mind – my body, my heart, my dreams, my digestive system! All shouting Riley, Riley, he’s in trouble, go to him . . . I can’t shut them up. My poor colleagues here are sick of the sight of me, and of the sound of your name. Apparently I am sleeptalking now! Shouting your name in the night, Jean says. And, she says, rolling over and hugging her!! Which I deny, because I will never ever roll over and hug anyone in the night but you, my darling – ”

The story progresses to glimpse the aftermath of war as it impacts these five criss-crossing lives. Young visits the pain of survivor’s guilt, and the silences that follow the men home and choke the households they have longed for.

But throughout the novel there is Riley and Nadine, and their enduring love . . . the light in a novel of stark misery and wartime suffering. And it’s all the brighter for its counterpoint.

‘My Dear I Wanted to Tell You’ is sublime. A novel of war that will leave you wrecked and wanting more. You’ll think on these characters for days after the last page. . .
Profile Image for Nancy.
1,102 reviews410 followers
June 26, 2012
The setting of this book is two locations in England and then mostly the worst battles of WWI. The story begins with Nadine and her brother meeting the young Riley, the son of a working class couple contrasting with Nadine's higher class. Riley is adaptable and is taken in by a high class, artist, Sir Alfred, which provides the young couple access to one another throughout their late childhood. Romance begins to bloom when Riley makes a rash decision and enlists in the European conflict, regretting it mightily.

In a coastal village near Dover, beautiful Julia laments her loneliness as her husband, Peter, who would not have been conscripted, has already left for war. Feeling useless, as she has been bred since birth to be nothing more than a beautiful wife, she obsesses with her appearance until Peter returns.

In Julia's home lives the plain looking Rose, Peter's cousin. Pitiable before the war, being unmarriageable, Rose finds herself useful and strong as she works in a nearby hospital with soldiers who are grotesquely mangled. To shock Julia, Rose allows a scene to play out where she explains, in detail, how Dr. Gillies, a brilliant surgeon, reconstructs faces that have been shot away, burned off, or otherwise mangled. Poor Julia listens in fascination and horror.

Although many books are written on WWII, less on WWI, the book gives a snapshot of different aspects on this war. Technological advances in war machines, made this war particularly bloody and costly in lives of the soldiers since advances in protection had not kept up with destruction. Like WWII, the soldiers spent a lot of time in trenches. Unlike WWII, the common fighting for the Allies involved hand to hand combat. The deadliest days of the Battle of Somme are detailed with the effects of both Riley and Locke.

Meanwhile, in England, Nadine bucks tradition and fights her mother on becoming more proper. Knowing her love is in battle, she chooses to become a glorified nurses assistant at a hospital where she sees the soldiers after the initial patch-up. She is a beautiful soul who refuses to play by the pretty rules of pretending war is not happening. Riley's and Nadine's love and commitment develop beautifully and honestly.

In contrast, Julia and Peter grow further and further from one another. The war affects all of the characters differently. Rose becomes more and more useful and connects with humanity better even through horrible disfiguring injuries in her hospital. One character tries to forget through brothels and alcohol. Another withdraws emotionally and wallows in self-pity after a horrible injury. Another character tries to reconnect by getting as close to death and gore and possible. A few characters try to maintain normalcy and social expectations from pre-war. It is the dawn of a new age and all are ill-prepared to return to "normal" after the war.

The writing style was difficult for me. I is often disjointed and two characters might respond to one another in one paragraph. Point of view changes as quickly as from one sentence to the other which threw me off at times. Additionally, colloquialisms for British English at this time period are employed and confused me.

The book is, at times, difficult to read due to the strong correlation drawn between sex and war. Yet it is a fascinating tertiary affect of war. Be assured that the story does not wander into the occupied and/or conquered lands to rape and pillage. Intimacy becomes a problem, however. The language is strong and crass.

Regardless, I loved the story, once I muddled through and figured out the writing style. The book is a definite worthwhile read and the romantic in me was satisfied. It's no happily-ever-after but ultimately the way to deal successfully with the aftermath was a deep commitment to hope and love.
Profile Image for Joanka.
435 reviews72 followers
August 7, 2018
2.5 stars

Reading My Dear I Wanted to Tell You I had this impression that in the end the reader got a different book than the author, Louisa Young, really wanted it to be. I haven’t read any interviews with her, it’s just what came to my mind when I read it. It’s a story about five people with World War I in the background. Well, ‘background’ is a really unsuccessful word here as it came crashing into the lives of the characters. There is Riley, who is a boy from a poor working-class family, for whom surprisingly the war remains a chance to jump up the social ladder to marry a girl he loves if he becomes a soldier. Said girl, Nadine, who is deprived of purpose when her educational and artistic dreams when the war broke out. Then there is Peter, an intellectualist who became a soldier, his wife Julia, who was taught only to be a good wife and her life lacks meaning when her husband is away. Finally, Rose, a childless spinster who thanks to war can become a free, independent woman, not limited by social restrictions as she becomes a nurse.

Do you recognize one of these themes? Or maybe all of them? Yes, I don’t think My Dear…’s premise is in any way original, and the romance subplots are very repetitive and to be honest quite dull. What’s more, the fact that the book was marketed as a romance (at least in Poland) did the book a huge disservice. Here I just want to underline one thing – I love romances in books. I love romantic plots, I need romantic themes, if there is no love story at all, I’m less interested in a book, I’m sorry. But! To find a romance that is a romance by genre and that I would like – that’s more complicated. And here it doesn’t work for me, all these confessions, all this thinking that she/he cannot live without the other one… It can be powerful mentioned once but when it appears for a fifteenth time, nah, not really. There is also a hint towards one of the character’s bisexuality, only to be then treated as a plot device in a really unoriginal and to be honest irritating if not straightly offensive way.

So what is the book about and what is good about it? Young knows how to write about war and the way she portrays war trauma is well-done and convincing, especially as it is not limited to the soldiers only. The fragments about war are also best written in the whole book. If you read the author’s note in the end, she doesn’t hide her emotional attitude towards first plastic surgeries connected with reconstructing faces of the soldiers and that’s another theme young develops nicely.
As for the characters… They seem developed and I can’t deny I became invested in their lives. On the other hand, they quite often feel as just personifications of some given tropes, just a gallery of different types of society members, slightly pretextual. They drown in the sea of words that carry little meaning. I would cut out a hundred pages and what was left would be a moving story about war and trauma, about love and loyalty and pain, mental and physical.

Still, I read those 400 pages in a few days and decided to read the next volume as well. It evoked feelings in me, and one of them was only slight irritation. If you like romances, you may give it a chance. If not really, then maybe look for some other book about British society during WWI.
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