My Dear I Wanted To Tell You by Louisa Young

Title: My Dear I Wanted To Tell You
Author: Louisa Young

Genre: Fiction (British / WWI / Early 20th Century / Cross Class Romance / PTSD / Trench Warfare / Medical Advancements / Nursing / Marriage )
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Perennial (6/26/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Loooooooooooooooved.
Did I finish?: I didn't want to finish because then the book would be over!
One-sentence summary: World War I in all its unvarnished glory, seen through the eyes of five people, connected by love and violence.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it captures some of the class/romance themes in this story although I think I prefer the hardcover version.

I'm reminded of...: Ian McEwan, Simon Van Booy

First line: It had been a warm night.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, my god, just do it!

Why did I get this book?: War and women, I can't resist.

Review: Excuse me, I need to wipe away tears so I can type. And some drool, because the writing in this book had me open-mouthed with awe/horror/amazement/delight. And then some.

This book has it all: pathos, romance, angst -- Kierkegaard-ian angst! -- anger, joy, beauty, and an articulation of war that is cinematic and breathtaking and disturbing.

Set in the years before World War I, and during, the story follows five people -- a couple in love, forbidden due to class differences; a married couple deeply in love, separated by the impacts of war; and a nurse with a medical facility revolutionizing facial reconstruction surgery.

Young's take on World War I reminded me very much of Saving Private Ryan's infamous opening -- impossible to ignore, mesmerising, unforgettable, and disturbing. The two relationships featured are predictable in some ways -- a couple facing class differences and parental disapproval find wartime changes society enough to allow them to attempt a courtship (long distance, of course) while another couple, formerly happily married, finds war changes them to the point of being unrecognizable. For me, the hook of the story wasn't so much the will they/won't they but the need to see if anyone would find a measure of happiness in the end.

I think this is what I wanted Atonement to be, or at least, this is how I wanted to feel when I finished Atonement. I'm awestruck, and gobsmacked, and I'm churning through the mental images painted by Young.

I've read some reviews that criticized Young's writing style but for me, it was one of the draws. I loved it, from the first page: some stream-of-consciousness (which harkened to the Modernist writers), some elegantly obtuse passages (imitating the layers of decorum and etiquette some of the characters are forced to embody), boldly graphic scenes that literally conveyed the violence of war ... This was the kind of book that makes me yearn to be a writer and despair I'll ever be one!

Should I keep gushing?  

*** *** ***

GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of My Dear I Wanted To Tell You to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 7/20.

Comments

  1. Replies
    1. Its making all other books a chore to read today!

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  2. I just finished another book set during WWI (Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres) and would love to read another! I don't enter giveaways too often, but how can I resist when the review is so amazing?

    Thanks!

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    1. I've heard great things abt De Bernieres - I do need to read him. This book was exquisite -makes reading anything else today feel like a chore!

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  3. I loved this one too and I thought the ending was perfect. Great review!

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    1. Everything in this book hit the perfect note for me - just wonderful.

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  4. Thanks for the wonderful review! I hadn't heard of this book before, but I'll be adding it to my wish list.

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    1. Tara, do add - it is such a treat to read!

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  5. This was such a great an enthusiastic review, and I love how much you loved this one! I haven't read much about this particular war, and this sounds like just the thing. It reminds me a little bit of My Name is Mary Sutter, what with all the nursing bits. If you haven't read that book, I do heartily recommend it! Great review today!

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    1. Heather -- I do need to read Mary Sutter -- I've heard nothing but praise for it -- and I do love really good depictions of war. (Wait, that sounds weird but you know what I mean!)

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  6. The library has it so what am I waiting for!? ;)

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  7. Replies
    1. Thank you for visiting! I'm afraid I didn't gush enough -- I could go on and on and on about your book!

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  8. Great review, I never heard of it before but not I really want to read it!. This is what I think historical fiction should do with war!


    CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

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    1. Carol -- exactly -- this isn't a positive book but the fact that it makes so real the grim reality of war -- so chilling -- I'm shivering still.

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  9. I'm hideously under-read when it comes to WWI, both on the fiction and non-fiction fronts. With such high praise from you, this could be an excellent start to remedying that problem!

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    1. Brooke -- I am too -- I find I read tons of WWII fic and sometimes conflate the two but when I read a great WWI book like this I'm reminded so acutely of how different, shocking, terrifying, and life-ruining it was. Do give it a try -- such an eye-opening but wholly accessible book. Loved it.

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  10. I'll check out this review after my tour date, but all I really needed to see was that you loved it.

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    1. Can't wait for your thoughts. Such a good book!!

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  11. Wow, this sounds like a good one. Just reading about it is stirring up all my Downton Abbey/Winds of War/global turmoil/romance please sweep me away with a miniseries-but-in a book yearnings. What a fun review.

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    1. YESSS -- this is totally a miniseries-in-a-book -- so sweeping. Do do do do get it!

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  12. Love the enthusiasm! Makes me want to run right out and get it!

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    1. Ti, I'm on a roll this week as tomorrow's review will be another gusher -- I'm running out of ways to convey my squee! ;)

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  13. This one has been languishing on my TBR since before it was released and no one has been talking about it. I'll have to make time for it ASAP!

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    1. Carrie -- do get it -- omg. Amazing. I'm so digging into Young's previous books as I am just wild about her writing style.

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  14. Wow. Any time you looooooove a book, I know I need to read it. Plus, I just love this title and am obsessed with books surrounding either WWI or WWII. Sign me up! (Or, rather, I signed myself up.)

    Anyway, thanks for the review. I had not heard of this one but can't wait to read it.

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    1. I think you'll love the author's writing style -- it wasn't a character so much as ... I don't know ... it had personality but wasn't intrusive so much as mood-setting. I just loved it -- it felt like an homage to the modernist writers who were trying to make sense of WWI in their own work. I really just loved it.

      Speaking of books I love that you need to read, tomorrow's is one I think I'd urge onto you even before this one. Sheila Kohler's The Bay of Foxes -- Marguerite Duras meets The Talented Mr. Ripley. Stunning.

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  15. Wow! I've had this book on the TBR for about a year and glance at it every so often, feeling guilty. A reviewer who has similar tastes (usually) didn't care for it, so I haven't been eager. Your review is making me want to pick it up and get to it already!

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    1. Oh, Sarah, you should definitely give a try! It was the kind of book that has really ruined other books for me this week -- nothing compares!

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  16. High praise indeed Audra! I knew I wanted to read this book but your review has moved it WAY up on my list.

    Thanks so much for being a part of the tour!

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  17. I love themes of happiness in a book because I find them especially fun to discuss during book club. I think I like that theme because happiness is so...elusive and fleeting.

    I'm so glad you loved it!

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  18. Sounds like we felt the same way about this one. It's still sitting on my night stand because I'm not ready to shelve it away just yet.

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  19. I don't know how I missed this review of yours, but I'm glad I finally found my way here. This book sounds amazing. I'm intrigued by the characters and want to read about what they experience during war time. But what really entices me about thisa book is the author's writing style..it sounds like it varies a bit during the course of the story in order to captivate and truly speak to readers and allow us to understand and feel what the characters are going through. I really want to read this book!
    Terrific review, Audra, Thank you!

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