I've been drawn to reading World War I era fiction, no doubt thanks to the Edwardian Age setting of "Downton Abbey" and the wonderful maze of English society that is so different from American culture. As we near the 100th anniversary of America's involvement in World War I, I've wanted to learn more about this conflict, with its horrendous conditions and casualties. Men fought for their countries, but in the trenches, they were fighting for inches of dirt, all the time mired in mud.
My Dear I Wanted to Tell You is a love story with all the twists and turns of English aristocracy, accepted societal conventions, pride, coincidence and the upside down world of war. Young Riley Purefoy meets upper class Nadie and while their interests are alike, they're of different classes and her family tries to block their relationship. In a fit of passion, Riley enlists in the army and is sent to the front, where he meets his commanding officer, Peter Locke. In the trenches of Ypres, war is more horrific than any patriotic boy ever imagined.
Locke is married to Julia, who is beautiful and trained to be a decorative wife, not a useful helper for the war effort, like her cousin Rose. Julia strives to be loved by her husband and to find her place in a world quickly changing due to war. Her cousin Rose goes to work at soldiers' hospital, which is based on the real Queen's Hospital at Sidcup, a pioneer in plastic and reconstructive surgery of the face. Rose works with soldiers who have been horribly disfigured, and must endure numerous surgeries to rebuild their faces.
If you like "Atonement," you will like this story that weaves together the lives of two very different couples. Heartbreaking, raw and sweet, this is a novel that will stay with you.
Recommended by Frazier Walker