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Motherland: A Novel Hardcover – April 9, 2013

3.5 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Nicholson is an acclaimed British novelist, television writer, and playwright, but he is best known as the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Gladiator and Shadowlands. He is currently enjoying success in movie theaters with his adaptation of the hit musical Les Misérables. His latest novel is a sweeping historical epic built around a love triangle that blossoms (and occasionally wilts) against the backdrop of pre- and post-WWII. A modern-day framing device, involving a young woman meeting her enchanting grandmother for the first time, is cinematic without relying on clichéd bombast to draw readers into the enjoyably familiar yet very well-written story. Go big or go home is Nicholson’s forte, and he won’t disappoint fans of classic Hollywood-style storytelling that grapples with life’s big-ticket issues (Faith! Duty! Honor!). The book’s marketing tagline (sometimes heroes don’t make the best husbands) practically guarantees a future film version. Yet, it’s the book’s quieter moments, infused with realistic dialogue and fastidious attention to historical detail, that will make true romantics swoon and should win over a wide mainstream audience. --Chris Keech


“A terrific book with a wonderful understanding of life in pre-war and post-war Britain. The description of the abortive Dieppe landings are extraordinary. The post-war lives of those who survived are particularly well drawn, the characters rich and varied. And there are always surprises. It reminds me of the first time I read Brideshead Revisited. A total triumph.” (Julia Gregson author of East of the Sun and Jasmine Nights)

"Nicholson’s great strength lies in his ability to make the reader understand and care about his characters; he loves them and we get to love them too. He is particularly concerned with morality and love, subjects that have inspired all great novelists. It is a joy to find a contemporary writer passionately engaged with both. This is a novel worth reading more than once." (Elizabeth Jane Howard author of the Cazalet Chronicle)

"A wartime love story in the tradition of Atonement...affecting." (Kirkus Reviews)

"A sweeping historical epic...won't disappoint fans of classic Hollywood-style storytelling that grapples with life's big-ticket issues...infused with realistic dialogue and fastidious attention to historical detail... will make true romantics swoon." (Booklist)

"Nicholson pays careful attention to historical details. He develops central characters that stir our emotions and keep us engaged...." (Library Journal, starred review)

“Depictions of postwar France, pre-independence India, and battlefield chaos add scope to Nicholson’s ruminations on love, faith, decency, the choices ordinary people make, and how they cope with the consequences.” (Publishers Weekly)

"Intelligently scrumptious." (The Daily Mail)

“Nicholson manages not to write a single clichéd sentence…extremely powerful.” (The Spectator)

"Masterful, engaging and romantic...his forte is in describing the nuances and complications of relationships and this talent really shines in Motherland. His simple, intense style...is one to get lost in." (Red Online)

"A profound and moving novel; tender and compassionate...there is always, in Nicholson and his characters, however desperate and lost, the small fierce spark of humanity. His great triumph is in creating a love triangle in which we, as much as the characters themselves, can see no resolution, because it is unbearable to imagine any of them hurt." (Clare Clark The Guardian)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451687133
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451687132
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,883,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Blue in Washington TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A good quasi-romance novel about getting on with life in times fraught with general conflict and dysfunction. "Motherland" is set for the most part during in WWII and early postwar England and follows the strivings of two men and the woman that they both love. Duty, honor and keeping the proverbial upper lip stiff are at the tale's heart throughout. The cast of secondary characters is large and often more interesting than the principals. While the storyline launches in a way similar to dozens of other books set in the period, it does eventually dig in and establish a kind of originality. The book's strength is in its dialogues which dominate and drive the plot. The author's experience as a screenwriter is evident and brings credibility to the interactions and growth of the characters.

I found the book a little slow in getting started, but eventually, when the main characters have been established and their qualities and seminal experiences taken place, the story grabs you. What I truly wish for for this entertaining novel (but doubt will come to pass) is a new title ("Motherland" doesn't really frame the tale all that well) and a new cover illustration (the current one is hilariously misleading). A good read.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I truly believe the author was attempting to achieve a masterpiece and unfortunately, he failed to serve it up to the reader. It probably was a screenplay originally. I wonder if it was altered to see if book sales would translate into a worthy investment for a movie?

If you are looking for another read the caliber of "Sarah's Key" or "The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet", this book will disappoint. However, I did see some parallels in "The Lost Wife" and "Motherland".

There were multiple themes in the book but some just sounded worn lacking little originality and unsuccessful towards making the book a masterpiece. I'll try to not spoil the book in my examples. Ed is a war hero, bitter at the waste of human life that he saw in battle. His anger was so extreme, that in the midst of the battle he saves ten others believing that in doing, so he would die and leave a legacy. However, he returns alive with barely a scratch; his bitterness and travail increase into what are quite obviously symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. His response is to close off emotionally from all others and develops severe alcoholism. He also escapes by spending his days walking the countryside. After a conversation with a friend, he decides to become two Eds, the suffering Ed and the happy go lucky Ed that is present when he is with family and friends. The dynamics of a true split personality or even multiple personalities aren't typically that easy to create; just ask any therapist or psychological survivor. Possible yes, plausible no. Nor is his daily ten and twelve hour walks to "escape" interaction likely. Most people with the severity of depression he exhibits typically can't get out of bed. His alienation becomes a MAJOR focus for the book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
British author and screenwriter William Nicholson's new novel, "Motherland" is, in part, peopled with characters he's included in previous novels. This novel, which takes place - mainly in the WW2 era England and post-war/independent India - begins and ends with a modern setting, which establishes some of the characters and their places in the story. By the way, "Motherland" seems to refer to the British Empire.

For me as an Amazon reviewer, the hardest reviews to write are the 3 star reviews. At Amazon, 3 stars are lumped in with "negative" ratings, but they really shouldn't be. It's fairly easy to write a 4 or 5 star review; basically you either liked the book or really liked the book. One and 2 star reviews are equally easy to write; just explain the reasons you hated a book or why you really hated a book. Three stars, on the other hand, mean a mixed bag. I wish Amazon would view three stars as "neutral"; neither good nor bad, and possibly appealing to readers, while other readers shouldn't bother with it.

Nicholson's three main characters - one woman and two men - form the ever-popular romantic triangle. As with all love-triangles, there are winners and there are losers. In "Motherland", war-time ATS driver Kitty must choose between two soldier-suitors she meets during her driving duties. The problem is that we have met "Kitty", "Ed", and "Larry" many times before. Oh they may have had different names and been active in different wars, but basically a war-time romantic triangle is just that...a war-time romantic triangle. And although William Nicholson tries hard, his characters just don't step off the page and distinguish themselves in the reader's imagination.

That is not to say "Motherland" is a bad book. It's not. It's just not a memorable one. The reader of war-time romances which continue into the dull days of the post-war will enjoy this book. He or she might just not remember it in a year.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
At first blush I thought this book was just an ordinary war-time romance. Soon I realized the complexity of the relationships, with the detailed war-time background, made it a much more than ordinary read. I recommend the book to readers who enjoy complicated characters and the real-time history in their tortuous lives.
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