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Group Reads Archive > The Return of the Soldier (Chapters 1-3)

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message 1: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Please use this thread to discuss chapters 1-3 of...

The Return of the Soldier (Modern Library Classics) by Rebecca West The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West Rebecca West


message 2: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I read chapter 1 last week and think it's going be engaging. How horrible, though, to not be properly informed that your husband has been seriously wounded. I also think it's already showing the stigma of coming back from the front with "shell shock."


message 3: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments I read the first couple of chapters the other night. It started out kind of slow for me until the introduction of Margaret and then I became more interested in the story.


message 4: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
I'm wondering about the logistics of sending men to WW1 - wouldn't thewife automatically be recorded as next of kin? would it have bee his responsibility to notify them before going to war, rather than in this story, where he just names margaret after he comes round.

Is this poetic licence to facilitate the plot or could the scenario really have played out this way? - if it could, what does this tell us about the patriarchal control exercised at this time?


message 5: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments Where he was injured - they may not have had access to that information.

I don't think next of kin (at least for Americans) is included on your dog tags.

If you think back to the Ronald Coleman/Greer Garson film, Random Harvest - based on the James Hilton novel (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0035238/), the soldier had shell shock/amnesia and they didn't know who he was. They kept bringing in prospective parents who go that's not my son. Then he wanders off to meet Greer. It is only later he gets bonked on the head again and his memory goes back to his previous life.


message 6: by Becca (new)

Becca | 6 comments Having just gotten past the introduction of my edition by Samual Hynes, one thing I found quite interesting was the perceived, (largely) historical accuracy of this novel, which was referred to as a retelling of events of WW1 (at 1916) that shaped England- from a woman's perspective. This was entirely new thanks to WW1 being both the first English war covered in journalistic news, and the first that allowed enlisting of the upper and middle class men who could read and write and recount their experiences to wives who were literate as well. So I'm inferring from the above that next of kin either wasn't practiced or not known by the author. Hmmm, interesting question.


message 7: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments The kindle version that I got didn't have any introduction. So you may have an advantage. What kind of information was covered?


message 8: by Becca (new)

Becca | 6 comments I found the introduction to be very informative, and I highly recommend reading it if you can find it on kindle. My edition is Penguin Classics and the intro was written by Samuel Hynes. He discusses the turbulent period during which this novel was written: the Edwardian years which he states, was the period where the "tides of Victorianism and Modernism" met. England had a deeply polarized economy, and shifting class system due to industrialism, anyone with money "new money" could ascend what used to be a system one was born into. Anyway, the novel is unusual in that it is a war story without battle fields, written by a novelist (West) who at the time was in a state of extreme seclusion deep in the English countryside, yet can imagine the terrors of the front through a writers imagination and the intelligence of news sources. Hynes says the dates in which the plot is set are chosen exactly to represent the dying out of the "dream of England" represented by the main characters amnesia as he can only recall 1901 (novel is set in 1916). Not having read the book yet, I can't comment on that....


message 9: by Linda2 (last edited Mar 05, 2011 10:39PM) (new)

Linda2 Jan C wrote: "Where he was injured - they may not have had access to that information.

I don't think next of kin (at least for Americans) is included on your dog tags.

If you think back to the Ronald Colem..."


Ronald Coleman's character just happened to come upon his real wife. Puleeeeese...

If you recall the very real story, My Boy Jack, about the enlistment and death of Rudyard Kipling's only son, it took a few years to find out what had happened to him. That war was rife with incompetence, idiocy, and wholesale slaughter for what amounted to nothing, except conditions leading to another world war. I wouldn't be surprised at anything that happened.


message 10: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 561 comments There isn't a reference to "dog tags" in the narrative if I recall. One can only imagine the chaos of trying to identify bodies. It was very much as Rochelle has observed: wholesale slaughter. I recall reading The Empress of Ireland about film director Brian Desmond Hurst - it gave a harrowing account of his service at Gallipoli.


message 11: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments No, there wasn't any mention of any dog tags. I was just indicating that while dog tags do maintain a certain amount of information, next of kin isn't one of them. Thus, if a soldier were found wandering away from his unit (and, thus, his papers) it might be hard to identify him.

Or maybe they didn't wear identification tags. I'm not that knowledgeable about the British army.


message 12: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 561 comments Me neither.


message 14: by Anna (new)

Anna My great grandfather fought in WWI and certainly on the documentation that I've seen his address was recorded, presumably so they knew where to send the telegram if a soldier was killed in action. So, it is surprising that Kitty didn't receive a telegram informing her of her husbands injuries. However, I daresay that administrative efficiency varied from regiment to regiment and also papers were lost in the chaos of war.

I felt so sorry for Kitty. To long for her husbands safe return from war only to have forgotten you must be the most heartbreaking scenario imaginable. She's completely lost her role and identity as a wife. Poor woman.


message 15: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 561 comments Rochelle wrote: "Jan C wrote: "Where he was injured - they may not have had access to that information.

I don't think next of kin (at least for Americans) is included on your dog tags.

If you think back to the Ro..."


Wasn't there a film with Daniel Radcliff?


message 16: by Jan C (last edited Mar 19, 2011 06:35PM) (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments Ivan wrote: "Rochelle wrote: "Jan C wrote: "Where he was injured - they may not have had access to that information.

I don't think next of kin (at least for Americans) is included on your dog tags.

If you..."


I don’t know of one with Daniel Radcliffe.

I just looked it up at imdb.com and there was one in 1983 - Alan Bates, Glenda Jackson, Ann-Marget and Julie Christie. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084590/


message 17: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 561 comments My Boy Jack? by Tonie Holt My Boy Jack? with Radcliffe as Kipling's son. Sorry for the confusion.


message 18: by Jan C (last edited Mar 19, 2011 08:21PM) (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments Excellent show.

While Jack went to the war, he didn't come back. Sorry for the spoiler if you haven't seen it.

Not that long ago, last year possibly, I read two short stories by Kipling, published in one volume, both were based on incidents in his life, Baa Baa Black Sheep and the Gardener. The Gardener was a story about a woman whose son didn't come back from the war. Both of these stories were real tear jerkers, but quite good. My introduction to Kipling.


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