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Group Reads Archive > The Return of the Soldier (Whole Book Thread)

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message 1: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Please use this thread to discuss the whole 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 Janice (JG) (last edited Mar 02, 2011 11:42AM) (new)

Janice (JG) I hadn't realized how short this story is... or, maybe it was so easy to read it just flew by :)

What a wonderful writer is Rebecca West. She not only seduces us with her lyrical prose, she also drops constant tidbits of wisdom & observation onto our plates... and if I were not consuming her so avidly, I would stop & linger and enjoy her even more.

An example:
Beautiful women of her type lose, in this matter of admiration alone, their otherwise tremendous sense of class distinction; they are obscurely aware that it is their civilizing mission to flash the jewel of their beauty before all men, so that they shall desire it and work to get the wealth to buy it, and thus be seduced by a present appetite to a tilling of the earth that serves the future. There is, you know, really room for all of us; we each have our peculiar use.

I am still thinking about all the contrasts and contradictions presented in this story.

I thought the ending was perfect -- my sentimental self would have opted for the first conclusion... but the author didn't let me get away with it, and I am so glad.

During the whole story I wondered about the narrator, Jenny, who kept exposing small moments of profound complexity that we are supposedly to ignore as the story moves quickly past her, and because it's not really about her... is it?

The single comment Jenny makes toward the end of the book, A sharp movement of Kitty's body confirmed my deep, old suspicion that she hated me. stopped me cold. Just who is Jenny in all of this? Kitty is presented as the antagonist, but Jenny's role seems sometimes more insidious. How many times were we made aware of her various jealousies, and her consuming attentiveness toward Chris? Or, is her's the real, true love of utter selflessness?

I will read this book again. And I'm off to pick up more Rebecca West.


message 3: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 561 comments I thoroughly enjoyed this. I thought the prose was gorgeous and the story quite sad and lovely.


message 4: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments This was a quick read. Wonderfully written. I had great difficulty putting it down. A trifle sad, though. As a romantic, too bad there couldn't have been a different ending.

I am still confused as to what Jenny's role in this house is. Is Chris somehow responsible for her because she never married.

Come to think of it, it probably is the way life was for a certain class of people in England (and probably elsewhere, too).


message 5: by Anna (new)

Anna I've finished this too and thought the writing was lovely. It's very 'of it's time' and I thought all three women were complex characters. I liked the realistic ending. It was clearly not going to have a fairy tale ending so I thought Rebecca West wrapped it up very aptly and in keeping with the rest of the novel.


message 6: by Alicatte (new)

Alicatte I'm odd man out on this. I felt that there was a deep philosophical story buried underneath West's flowery writing style. On the one hand, I was gripped with the story of memory, truth, and pain. Is it better to know the truth and feel all the pain, or to live in an unreal world where past agonies don't exist? On the other hand, West's writing was a little too heightened for me; it reminded of a type of film that would've been directed by Douglas Sirk.


message 7: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) Alicatte wrote: "... On the one hand, I was gripped with the story of memory, truth, and pain. I. Is it better to know the truth and feel all the pain, or to live in an unreal world where past agonies don't exist?..."

This is what I meant by contrasts and contradictions... I think these were the core questions of the story. Coincidentally I've been discussing Scorsese's film Shutter Island elsewhere, and I think the same questions were posed in that film. That story opted for a different ending.


message 8: by Ally (last edited Mar 26, 2011 05:59AM) (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
When I was describing the book to my boyfriend he said ' it sounds just like shutter island ' - It does raise interesting questions about the memories we want to retain and those we choose to shut out. It also raises questions of responsibility - our emotional ties raise within us quite a few binds!


message 9: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I just finished and enjoyed this book. Despite its short length, and the sometimes meandering observations on the scenery, I found this book to be quite deep and to have many layers and social commentaries. As I was finishing the book, I wondered why Jenny was the narrator, or even why she was there at all. She is, as Janice said, "insidious." She does feel some fondness, I think, for Kitty, but I'm fairly certain that Jenny hates her as well. She pines for Margaret's simple life; was Jenny poor before she came to live with Chris and Kitty? Yet she's also developed some of Kitty's snobbery towards Margaret's lower station in life. An interesting mix.

I've never thought the words "He's cured!" could be so tragic.


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