Book Review – My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young

Book Review – My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young
Book Review – My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa YoungMy Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young
Published by HarperCollins
Publication date: May 31, 2011
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Length: 10 hrs and 46 mins
339 pages
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

The lives of two very different couples—an officer and his aristocratic wife, and a young soldier and his childhood sweetheart—are irrevocably intertwined and forever changed in this stunning World War I epic of love and war.

At eighteen years old, working-class Riley Purefoy and “posh” Nadine Waveney have promised each other the future, but when war erupts across Europe, everything they hold to be true is thrown into question. Dispatched to the trenches, Riley forges a bond of friendship with his charismatic commanding officer, Peter Locke, as they fight for their survival. Yet it is Locke’s wife, Julia, who must cope with her husband’s transformation into a distant shadow of the man she once knew. Meanwhile, Nadine and Riley’s bonds are tested as well by a terrible injury and the imperfect rehabilitation that follows it, as both couples struggle to weather the storm of war that rages about them.

Moving among Ypres, London, and Paris, this emotionally rich and evocative novel is both a powerful exploration of the lasting effects of war on those who fight—and those who don’t—and a poignant testament to the enduring power of love.

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Book Review:

I picked up this book on Book Outlet because the premise looked really good. It’s a British novel about World War I and pain of being torn apart from your loved ones. The title, the cover, and the summary all drew me in promising an epic love story about enduring love in times of harshness of war, but I was left feeling unfulfilled in the “epic romance” department.

I’ve been in the mood to read a historical romance novel, which is different from the contemporary or paranormal novels I typically gravitate towards. This novel had several moments full of hollowness and heartbreak, not heartbreak in the sense of romance but of hope. There was this utter feeling of hopeless that I could sense in Riley and it was so sad!

One night he saw Captain Harper flying across the sky like a whirling starfish before shattering  into a flaming shell crater, and he put the sight in that special part of his brain he would never go to again, fed it through the greedy slot in the forever unopenable door. His thoughts jumped like fleas, like hot water on a hot plate, uncatchable, inexplicable.

My Dear I Wanted To Tell You had everything going for it on the outside. The cover was of a couple embracing. The blurbs the publisher placed on the jacket speak of this “epic love story” about “enduing love” and its comparison to other popular romance novelsBut I was really disappointed. While this book was a gruesomely realistic tale of the brutality of war and the effects on those in the front lines and at home, it lacked this soul-splitting romance that I was expecting.

Even though it didn’t have the romance element, I still enjoyed parts of it. I thought the characterization was done really well. The story features two couples: one married and one who isn’t but would like to be. Each couple is very different. One whose love seems to be more of convenience than of depth and the other couple who’s declaration came a moment to late.

Peter and Julia were in love and married before the war, they had their whole lives ahead of them. And then Peter was called up and left Julia behind. Her whole identity in life was wrapped up in being a wife and looking good for her husband. When he was ripped away for so long she felt useless, shriveled-up and without purpose for the rest of her life. I liked reading her chapters, even though I found her to be ridiculous and vain (though I think that was more due to women of her class in that time).

“What can I do for you, Peter? How can I make you happy?…I only want you to be happy darling…”
…”Well I’m afraid that’s not in your power, my dear.”

Riley and Nadine have been in love with each other since childhood, but Riley’s poor upbringing and lack of a true social standing made it impossible for Nadine’s upper class family to accept him. For that reason, he held his true feelings inside until after he left for war.

I found the author’s writing style to be a bit difficult to digest. Her sentence structure and dialogue were very convoluted. The novel was told in third person but shifts to different points-of-view, oftentimes mixing in narrative with actual first-person like narrative. Her sentences ended up being really long with em dashes and italicized internal dialogue. All of it just seemed really cluttered and took away from the reading experience.

I can truly appreciate the amount of research that had to go into this novel, not only on the historical references with World War I but also regarding all of the medical terminology and the cultural climate of the time.

2 stars

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