The Heroes’ Welcome
By Louisa Young
Author’s Website: http://www.louisayoung.co.uk/
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Daniele
LONDON, APRIL 1919.
THE GREAT WAR HAS ENDED.
In a flurry of spring blossom, childhood sweethearts Nadine Waverney and Riley Purefoy are married. Those who have survived the war are, in a way, home. But Riley is wounded and disfigured; normality seems incomprehensible, and love unfathomable. Honeymooning in a battered, liberated Europe, they long for a marriage made of love and passion rather than dependence and pity.
At Locke Hill in Kent, Riley’s former CO Major Peter Locke is obsessed by Homer. His hysterical wife, Julia, and the young son they barely know attempt to navigate family life, but are confounded by the ghosts and memories of Peter’s war. Despite all this, there is the glimmer of a real future in the distance: Rose Locke, Peter’s cousin and Riley’s former nurse, finds that independence might be hers for the taking, after all.
For those who fought, those who healed and those who stayed behind, 1919 is a year of accepting realities, holding to hope and reaching after new beginnings.
The Heroes’ Welcome is a brave and brilliant evocation of a time deeply wounded by the pain of war. It is as devastating as it is inspiring. (Goodreads)
The Heroes’ Welcome is the sequel to My Dear I Wanted to Tell You and picks up six months after World War I has ended. It follows the story of Riley, who was terribly disfigured during the war, and his new wife Nadine as they navigate a new, post-war normal. Their struggles with physical awkwardness, class differences, societal and familial rejection, and the ghosts of war are heartbreaking but hopeful. Also, we read about Riley’s commanding officer and friend, Peter, whose scars are much less visible, and his wife Julia. Their portion of the story is even more heart wrenching as Peter loses himself in alcohol in an attempt to deal with survivor’s guilt and post-traumatic stress, and Julia’s insecurities and loss of purpose lead her to alienate their child. The only bright spot is found with Peter’s cousin. Rose, a spinster of sorts, was a nurse during the war and finds the opportunity to study medicine and become a doctor.
I really struggled with how to review this grim novel. The writing style is unusual, with italicized portions of inner dialogue interspersed with the sometimes confusing, spare main passages. It was a strange combination of voyeuristic stream of consciousness and feeling like I was only reading one side of the conversation. Many inferences had to be made, but as I continued to read it became more natural. This look at post-war dysfunction was difficult but fascinating, and I felt compelled to read on, much as people cannot look away from an accident scene. The various characters’ personalities and abilities to cope with what has been dealt to them were interesting in their differences and outcomes. There was a plot twist that I had hoped would not materialize, but it did and brought even more despair to those involved.
The Heroes’ Welcome was quick but not an easy read. It was a brutally honest account of the aftereffects of war and their far reaching ramifications. As a twenty-first century civilian, I continue to be reminded of the suffering and fortitude of those who lived one hundred years ago. I recommend this to fans of Ms. Young, those who have read the prequel, and those looking for a different take on life after World War I.
*OBS would like to thank the author and TLC Book Tours for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review as part of their ongoing blog tour*