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Books 97-98: My Dear I Wanted to Tell You and Worth Dying For

Book 97: My Dear I Wanted to Tell You.
Author: Louisa Young, 2011.
Genre: Period Fiction. WWI. War. Romance. Mental Illness.
Other Details: Hardback. 336 pages.

While Riley Purefoy and Peter Locke fight for their country, their survival and their sanity in the trenches of Flanders, Nadine Waveney, Julia Locke and Rose Locke do what they can at home. Beautiful Julia and gentle, eccentric Peter are married: every day Julia prepares for her beloved husband's return. 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 their future is completely out of their hands? And Rose? Well, what did happen to the traditionally brought-up women who lost all hope of marriage, because all the young men are dead? - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

This novel wasn't quite what I had expected in that its focus wasn't on the experience of trench warfare but more upon the aftermath experienced by Riley and Peter as well as how the war and their fates effected Nadine, Julia and Rose back home. Rose, while not waiting for anyone's return, is involved with nursing the wounded in a facility dealing with innovative reconstructive surgery.

While I could appreciate the novel's worth I found I just didn't connect with the characters as much as others in our reading group. It was certainly a well written and researched novel and took a different approach to the repercussions of war, especially in terms of injuries and the ground-breaking techniques that were developed as well as the experience of women. The psychological effects of warfare and waiting were also explored.

It may be that it was too big a subject for such a modest length novel though I feel that the problem was with me rather than the novel as I just wasn't in the mood this week for a serious work of period fiction and with it being a reading group selection I didn't have the luxury of setting it aside for a few days until my mood shifted. However, it was very well received by others in our reading group and generated a great deal of discussion. I understand the author plans it as the first in a trilogy examining the legacy of the Great War. I may well revisit it when the second volume is published.

Book 98: Worth Dying For (Jack Reacher, #15).
Author: Lee Child, 2010.
Genre: Action. Thriller.
Other Details: Hardcover. 410 pages.

On route to Virginia Jack Reacher stops off in a small town in Nebraska that is being effectively run by the Duncan family, who exploit the local populace in an atmosphere of fear and are also involved in some fairly shady dealings with sinister men in other parts of the country. Reacher becomes drawn into the situation and gets to beat up a lot of heavies in the employ of the Duncans. However, when he learns of the unsolved disappearance of a child 25 years earlier, he decides to investigate and bring his own rough justice to the mix. The Duncans also raise the stakes and get their out of town people involved with the goal of 'putting Reacher down'.

This was my first experience of Lee Child's Jack Reacher series and probably my last too even though its page after page of mindless, yet righteous, violence was an easy read and held my attention. However, it just wasn't my kind of escapism even though I can see its appeal as it evokes those old fashioned Westerns in which a mysterious stranger comes to town and sorts out local baddies.

What surprised me was that this was chosen as a selection for my other library reading group and it's hard to imagine a greater contrast with the worthy My Dear I Wanted to Tell You reviewed above, which is more the sort of novel suited to discussion. This was an all-action novel which is fine if that is what you want to read, and sometimes I do, but it seemed inappropriate as a reading group choice as there were no real points to discuss. We did end up talking about the appeal of action novels of various kinds and it was clear that Lee Child did have a few devotees in the group.
Tags: adventure, mental health, period fiction (20th century), romance, thriller, war
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