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My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You

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J'ai adoré ce livre qui raconte avec beaucoup de justesse et de finesse la problématique des classes sociales dans l'Angleterre d'avant guerre.

The second true historical story that is central to this novel is the work of Harold Gillies – a doctor who was also an Army Major. Toch ziet niet iedereen de toekomst somber in, Rose Locke – Peters nichtje en Rileys voormalige verpleegster – beseft dat er voor haar als vrouw onafhankelijkheid in het verschiet ligt. Julia has burned her face with acids, attempting to hide signs of aging, but seems to feels more relief than anything when her son whom she’s fetched to see his father reacts to her bandages by attempting to comfort her, and she understands that “Peter needs me sane more than he needs me beautiful…” (324).The first line of this postcard forms the title of the book; the choice between these two categories underpins the plot and is Riley's first lie to Nadine. The passionate recounting of early plastic surgery -- the vanities AND the essential reconstructive work -- are also fascinating -- and make 1917 seem not so very far away. Nadine and Riley, only eighteen when the war starts, and with problems of their own already, want above all to make promises - but how can they when the future is not in their hands? His wife is equally repulsive, though her character raises another intriguing issue: Is being a housewife enough?

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. Only eighteen at the outbreak of the war, Nadine and Riley want to make promises to each other—but how can they when their future is out of their hands?

The story frequently focuses on the emotional toll of the war, in the trenches, in the hospitals, in the homes of England. Nearby, Julia Locke does her bit for the war effort by instructing the gardener to plant a few vegetables, drifting through her days with aimless self-absorption, worrying incessantly that her own lovely face will age during Peter's long months away.

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 power of enduring love.I found the chapters depiciting Riley's time on the battlefield to be particularly difficult to get through. The characters in My Dear I Wanted to Tell You enter the story strangely underdeveloped - their motives and reasons for falling in love are never quite explained - and never quite recover. Somewhere in the middle I lost interest in the romance plot(s), and the ending was quite abrupt and a little underwhelming. My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louise Young poignantly portrays the horror of war, insightfully revealing the effects on men and women, soldiers and medical teams, those at the front and those at home.

Young’s novel examines social and monetary class distinctions, even providing slight nuances to the “poshies” in how they treat the working class. In Belgium, Riley comes under the command of Captain Peter Locke, a sensitive musical man, who takes a liking to Riley and is keen to see him promoted. At times this book was heart-wrenching and I felt absolutely miserable for what Riley had to endure. But when Nadine’s mother objects to the unsuitable courtship Riley turns his mind to the war effort and naively signs up to fight ‘for the duration of the war’.

Also in Sidcup is Peter's cousin, Rose, an independent and very resourceful young woman working as a nurse at the Queen's Hospital under the pioneering plastic surgeon, Major Gillies (a real-life character). If you’re looking for a romantic war time novel with some interesting medical history, check out My Dear I Wanted to Tell You. And there are two witchy witchy mothers that would seem monstrously misogynist if written by a man -- Young's gentle touch fails her there.

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