Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gifts of War by Mackenzie Ford

Flap copy from ARC:
"During the Christmas Truce of 1914, a German gives a British soldier a photo, and they make a pact. Hal, the British soldier, promises to find his enemy's English girlfriendm Sam, and let her know her fiance is alive and thinking of her. Several weeks later, Hal- now injured- is discharged from the amry and goes to Stratford-upon-Avon to fulfill his promise. But things take an unexpected turn when he meets the woman in the photo and falls in love with her himself. As their romance blossoms, Sam shares with Hal her most private confidence: her newborn son is of German lineage, information at threatens her reputation and her job as a schoolteacher. Fearful that he will lose Sam, Hal holds tight to the secret- and the photograph- that brought them together."

This book is a hard one to review because it is hard to capture exactly what makes it so very good. No question the book is well-written and historically accurate- not a surprise given that the writer is an historian by profession. More importantly, the characters really breathe and live through the pages of the book; once I started reading, I had a hard time putting this book down. Hal and Sam are both sympathetic characters with realistic flaws, working hard to carve out a life in a time of personal and global turmoil.

I've never read much fiction centered around WWI, and was impressed by Ford's ability to convey the horror of that war with spare prose that highlighted the futility of trench warfare. The secondary characters of Hal and Sam's family added depth and pathos to the narrative; it is difficult to see imagine the story working as well if any were eliminated. There were no wasted words or scenes; every element advanced the plot in some essential way. No spoilers here, but the denouement was simultaneously satisfying and yet disappointing- truly a fitting end to this tale of romance, deceit, war and loss. Highly recommended!


Diane said...

Looking forward to reading this one; thanks for the post

Anonymous said...

Had me at "1914" and "British soldier" - adding this to my list!

bermudaonion said...

I was lucky enough to get a copy of this book and I'm really anxious to read it after your review.