Author: Louisa Young
Published in 2011.
Published in 2011.
A letter, two lovers, a terrible lie. In war, truth is only the first casualty. ‘Inspires the kind of devotion among its readers not seen since David Nicholls’ One Day’ The Times
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, obsessive Julia and gentle, eccentric Peter are married: each day Julia goes through rituals to prepare 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 the future is not in 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 were dead?
Moving between Ypres, London and Paris, My Dear I Wanted to Tell You is a deeply affecting, moving and brilliant novel of love and war, and how they affect those left behind as well as those who fight.
The story takes place during World War One. Rather than focussing entirely upon the military aspect of war, the author narrates a tale of romance amidst the background of war, loss and injury. Attention is paid to society and those left behind at home. Two of the characters join the VAD -Volunteer Aid Detachment as nurses and towards the end of the novel the reader is introduced to the pioneering surgery in facial reconstruction. Interestingly this is an area that the Booker prize winning author, Pat Barker includes in her latest book, 'Toby's Room,' and so for me this is familiar territory and fascinating reading. The pioneering work of Major Gillies (doctor) and the artist Henry Tonks featured here were firstly covered by Barker in her novel, 'Life Class,' published in 2007.
It is an enjoyable novel especially if you are interested in this era. Young seems to be quite adept at marrying history with fiction. Concepts such as the shift in social class and boundaries are touched upon. This was a time of extreme social change which saw some of the upper classes mixing with the lower classes, often for the first time, especially in the trenches and in the hospitals. Riley and Nadine's growing love for one another is kept hidden initially and it is a growing tension that wavers as it attempts to permeate the strong class divide.
The title is truly interesting. It does not give any clues away at all. In fact, the author has said before how she came across an old postcard, one which injured soldiers were given to send home to their loved ones. It had standardized writing on it with appropriate gaps for your loved one's name and began, 'My dear I wanted to tell you.' In essence it rather foreshadows what is to come in the novel. My main criticism is that it is a little slow in parts, especially the first half of the novel. At times the narration is also a little cliched but the novel is well plotted with believable characters. It is a very moving tale and I found myself willing the two main characters, Riley and Nadine to achieve that old elusive happy ever after.