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The Return of the Soldier (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – June 8, 2004
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For when Chris rebuilt Baldry Court after his marriage, he handed it over to architects who had not so much the wild eye of the artist as the knowing wink of the manicurist, and between them they massaged the dear old place into matter for innumerable photos in the illustrated papers.But of late this universe unto itself cannot quite keep out an England altered by ambition and industry. Only a few miles away a "red suburban stain," Wealdstone, has somehow cropped up. And one day all is permanently altered--or, rather, revealed--when a Wealdstone resident comes bearing news of Captain Baldry. Mrs. William Gray is clearly not of Chris's wife Kitty and his cousin Jenny's class, as Kitty in particular makes her aware. "Again her gray eyes brimmed," Jenny observes. "People are rude to one, she visibly said, but surely not nice people like this." How is it, then, that this dreary, "dingy" woman knows Chris and knows that something has happened to him? And how is it that Jenny soon comes to see her as someone "whose personality was sounding through her squalor like a beautiful voice singing in a darkened room"?
In the remainder of this brief, perfect novel, a vanished (or repressed) past and its lost prospect of happiness comes to the fore. Rebecca West is best remembered for Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia (1941), but she displays the same vision--and a similar degree of realism--in her charged 1916 novel. Many readers will passionately regret the book's last twist, even as they know it to be artistically as well as historically true. --Kerry Fried --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
—The New Republic
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Top Customer Reviews
The critical introduction, which should be read as an afterward so as not to rob you of the surprises in the novel, does a good job of reviewing the analogies between the tightly closed world of the country estate and the national experience. There is much more to be mined from this novel, including a window on the then new science of psychoanalysis and how it was understood. For me, the narration was a particular revelation. At first I thought the voice a bit melodramatic in a 19th century way, but it became clear that the tone was all part of the author's plan, and that it changed as the narrator's vision changed. The specter of spinsterhood hangs thick in the air, itself a comment on the social condition of the era.Read more ›
The novel reminds me very much of the 1913 novel by E. Phillips Oppenheim, The Double Life of Mr. Alfred Burton--I wonder if West read that book. Both books contrast middle-class and upper-class life, and although both clearly see the superior beauty and elegance wealth brings, both novels also depict the snobbery, isolation, and selfishness that can come with social status. Oppenheim's book is more concerned with social class than with differences in wealth--new money and old money are contrasted. West's book is more subtle and complex--the complex situation of the returned soldier with amnesia forces the characters to define, rank, and value the relative merits of love, happiness, life, truth, and social position.
(It is fascinating to juxtapose this novel as representing English country life in WWI with the Barchester novels of Angela Thirkell, and with the WWII novel of Mollie Panter-Downes, One Fine Day. The social burden of class in England comes across strongly. Another interesting juxtaposition is with Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway--which also deals with a mentally ill soldier returning from WWI.)
This book poses a true moral dilemma--there is no possible solution that can be happy ever after. This book should make you rethink the choices in your life and inspire you to greater self-knowledge.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book provides a revealing insight to the minds of various individuals affected by war, many of whom are often overlooked even in today's society. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Jacob A. Knaggs
Return of the Soldier was indeed a case study of the effects of the First World War within two fronts, home and on the battlefield. Read morePublished 8 months ago by R. DelParto
There are a lot of faults in this first book by Rebecca West (1918) but I ended up liking it for its simplicity. Read morePublished 8 months ago by J. Jamakaya
This story not only reveals the physical and psychological effects of World War I on human beings, but also the distinction and separation of social classes.Published 10 months ago by Diana Miranda
A beautiful portrait of shell shock, misery, and true love. The real hero is Margaret. She loses her own happiness.Published 10 months ago by Jeanne D. Taylor
I found this book after reading "The Fountain Overflows" by the same author and enjoying it immensely. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Lewis Woolston
This novel is short and tells the story of a WWI British soldier who returns from battle broken and with amnesia. He dooes not recognize his wife. She is just a fixture to him. Read morePublished 11 months ago by LouAnn LaJeunesse
This is a great read for those trying to better understand domestics at the time of the war.Published 11 months ago by Cassie Zeiner