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The Return of the Soldier (1918)

av Rebecca West

Andra författare: Se under Andra författare.

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1,2957210,615 (3.92)568
The soldier returns from the front to the three women who love him. His wife, Kitty, with her cold, moonlight beauty, and his devoted cousin Jenny wait in their exquisite home on the crest of the Harrow-weald. Margaret Allington, his first and long-forgotten love, is nearby in the dreary suburb of Wealdstone. But the soldier is shell-shocked and can only remember the Margaret he loved fifteen years before, when he was a young man and she an inn-keeper's daughter. His cousin he remembers only as a childhood playmate; his wife he remembers not at all. The women have a choice - to leave him where he wishes to be, or to 'cure' him. It is Margaret who reveals a love so great that she can make the final sacrifice.… (mer)
  1. 40
    A Month in the Country av J. L. Carr (Widsith)
    Widsith: Two excellent, but very different, novels about damaged English soldiers returning home from the First World War with shell-shock.
  2. 10
    Återstoden av dagen av Kazuo Ishiguro (fannyprice)
  3. 00
    Denna sanna natt : [roman] av Rebecca West (davidcla)
    davidcla: The sending off of the soldier to WW1.
  4. 00
    Jacobs rum av Virginia Woolf (davidcla)
  5. 00
    Oskuldens tid av Edith Wharton (amanda4242)
  6. 00
    Between the Sword and the Wall: a novel of World War I av Thomas De Angelo (Charles77)
  7. 00
    The Return of Captain John Emmett av Elizabeth Speller (inge87)
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engelska (69)  nederländska (2)  danska (1)  Alla språk (72)
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I've known of Rebecca West for quite a while due to her affair with H. G. Wells which has been the subject of books and plays. In 2016 I read her book Harriet Hume but I wasn't overly impressed so I hadn't picked up any more books by her until this book was recommended in the LibraryThing 1001 Books group as being excellent. And it was! Hard to believe this is a first novel as every sentence seems exquisite.

The story is quite simple. Captain Chris Baldry has been injured while fighting for the British forces during World War I. He has lost the last 10 years from his memory which means that he does not remember his wife Kitty. He does remember Margaret who was the young woman he loved 10 years ago and it was Margaret who received the notification that Chris was injured. Margaret is now married herself and leaves not too far from the Baldry estate so she comes to the house to break the news to Kitty. When Chris is brought home from France he only wants to see Margaret who comes every afternoon to spend time with him. If Chris can be made to regain those 10 lost years he will probably be sent back to the fighting but if he continues with the memory loss he will be continually confused and unhappy. All this is narrated by his cousin Jenny who seems to have lived with her cousin and his wife for some years. She cares for all three of the people in this triangle and yet she hopes that Chris can be spared having to return to the Front.

Here's one example of the writing at pp. 37 and 38 that is found throughout this gem of a book:
In the liquefaction of colours which happens on a summer evening, when the green grass seemed like a precious fluid poured out on the earth and dripping over to the river, and the chestnut candles were no longer proud flowers, but just wet white lights in the humid mass of the tree, when the brown earth seemed just a little denser than the water, Margaret also participated.
Can't you just picture that scene? ( )
  gypsysmom | Aug 23, 2020 |
This review will contain spoilers so don't read it if you don't want to know anything.

This is a short work, novella at most with about 99 pages widely spaced. It could be read in quick order but there is a lot packed into these pages. The story is set in WWI, and really centers on 3 women and how they relate to Chris, a young man who has returned from the war with amnesia. Rebecca West wrote this in 1918. It is a psychological novel, modernistic, as well as a work by a feminist. WWII changed life as it was previously known. In this war, the people in the home front were aware of the violence through films. The themes revolve around
1. the return of the soldier (starting pages and in the end). First it is reference to soldier returning to the home but it also the return of Chris from his transference/amnesia where he blocks out his life with Jenny and remembers a happier time that he spent with Margaret.
2. home, house, nature. Kitty has created a house that is perfect but false, it is separate and incongruent with Chris's memories and with nature. The author writes about these details beautifully.
3. The three women. Jenny the narrator is at best unreliable. She is Chris's cousin, secretly in love with Chris and at opposition to Jenny. She must be living with Jenny maybe as attendant as young women do sometimes. Maybe she was suppose to be the child's nurse. Kitty the wife he marries. We never know how or why he married Kitty. They've been married for awhile. Lost a child and we know there will never be another child but not why. Did this marriage grow apart even before the war. Kitty likes everything to be neat, she doesn't like or tolerate any disruption to perfection. Margaret was the young love of Chris. They broke up because of a misunderstanding that was never resolved because Chris had to leave to attend to a family affair and then they never connected to each other until the amnesia, when he writes to her again. Margaret agrees to see him and is the vehicle of returning the soldier to his previous life--life as a soldier who will return to the battle as well as to his marriage to Kitty. The story is not so much about trauma to the soldier but the impact of war on these three women. Kitty especially wishes to preserve the prewar life. Jenny and Kitty are closed into their prewar past as much as Chris is locked into his prewar past. Jenny sees Chris in the trenches and interestingly also describes her vision of his encounter with Margaret with the same visuals; “there he was, running across the lawn as night after night I had seen him run across No Man’s Land…" This debut novel is rich in details, rich in exploration of the changes occurring in the wake of WWI, and to the home and family. ( )
  Kristelh | Jul 8, 2020 |
Please note that I gave this book 4.5 stars, but rounded it up to 5 stars on Goodreads.

I read this story for The Dead Writers Society, 2016 Genre Fiction August 2016 book.

This story is (expletive) up. Seriously. You have a husband and wife separated by World War I. The husband's cousin is living with the wife and seems to sit around with constantly wet eyes thinking about "their Chris". And then the wife (Kitty) finds out that her husband who she loves is wounded with amnesia/shell shock and does not recall her or their life together. Instead he remembers a younger love and goes around telling people he will just die if he can't see/be with her. This story is (expletive) up.

So I disliked the character of Jenny (cousin to Chris) a lot. She had ever changing loyalties about what needed to be done about Chris. And depending on the way that the clouds were moving in the sky shifted her loyalties to her cousin, his wife, or his cousin's old love. Can you tell I did not care for her? Cause I did not.

I felt the most for Kitty who though she seems hard hearted, you realize she has suffered losses as well. She wants her husband to come back to her so they can resume their lives together again. This latest issue has her barely holding it together, and she at times gets to she Jenny for the grasping piece of crap she is (yep, still hate Jenny).

Chris you don't get a sense of much at all besides his selfishness. I get that he had shell shock and amnesia. But after being told by the 20th person around that things had changed, all he wanted to do was sit around and be around his old love Margaret. Of course that wasn't going to be able to be his future forever. The fact that Margaret and Jenny even entertained the notion drove me up the wall.

The writing was very good, but told from Jenny's point of view I think at times you realize that her words are at odds with what is going on. The flow was great too because you just keep reading and reading and wondering what in the heck is the ending going to reveal.

I thought the setting of the house from a happy shining place to a place that became cold and indifferent was sad. I can see how the war would change Chris from the younger man who had the whole world in front of him, to one who experienced a terrible war and also other losses in his life.

The ending set things up as the most bitter ending to a book I can remember in a time. I think in that instance Jenny realized what would happen if her and Kitty got "their Chris" back. So one wonders, what would have been best for him and them? ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
Written during WWI, I honestly thought this would be more about the war, but no, we get a sneaky peek into the inner workings of a man who came home, shell-shocked, only to find himself in an untenable position.

What? Has his wife left him for another man? No. He seems to have another kind of problem. ED? No, no, no... MEMORY LOSS. Sheesh. People.

Seriously though, this is a great snapshot of a time when so many men were voiceless. Indeed, as seen through the three women in his life... his wife, his old fiancé, and a female cousin... he's still pretty voiceless. The trick is in reading between the lines, or inferring from everything that happens in this plot and sometimes in letters we're not privy to, that gives this soldier his voice.

This is a romance, folks. A fascinating one, even. Lots of gray areas. And three women who only want to see him be happy.

Of course, the issue is clear and clearly horrible to contemplate.

A very thought provoking novella.

And for those of you who love period pieces and revel in really awkward class stratifications, this is also for you. :) ( )
1 rösta bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
While The Return of the Soldier was Rebecca West's first novel, two years earlier, in 1916, she had published a study of Henry James. Armed with this knowledge, it is hard not to see James's fingerprints all over The Return of the Soldier. West does not, thankfully, emulate his convoluted style, but she does borrow James's brilliantly elaborate examinations of a complex moral dilemma. As such, West's novel bears a striking similarity to James's late works, in particular [b:The Wings of the Dove|840693|The Wings of the Dove|Henry James|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1333171879l/840693._SY75_.jpg|121908] and [b:The Golden Bowl|259020|The Golden Bowl|Henry James|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1386921801l/259020._SX50_.jpg|118576].

The novel is narrated in first person by Jenny Baldry, the cousin of the protagonist, Chris Baldry. Clearly Jenny has deeper feelings for her cousin than she is willing to admit, and West's ability to use her narrator to observe and imagine is both breathtaking and subtle. This artistic decision is what elevates the novel into greatness, for Jenny's subjectivity and lyricism add a patina to the story that is simply perfect.

The story opens in 1916, when Jenny finds Kitty, Chris's beautiful, rich, but rather cold wife, in the nursery. The nursery is now a kind of museum to Kitty and Chris's dead son, Oliver, who, five years earlier, had died at the young age of two. Jenny looks out over the garden of Baldry Court and remembers the day when Chris went off to war. She recalls, in particular, that he had always had a naive belief that things work out well, a side that had been suppressed by his growing adult responsibilities: his inheritance of his father's business fifteen years earlier, his marriage to Kitty, and the death of his son. The two women are told that a visitor has come to see them, Margaret Grey, a shabby and plain woman who claims to have news that Chris has suffered from shell-shock. At first, the woman don't believe her, thinking it is a scheme to swindle money from them, but after Margaret produces a telegram, sent to Margaret's former home at Monkey Island, they change their minds.

The next morning, a letter arrives from Frank Baldry, another of Chris's cousins. Frank confirms that Chris has shell-shock, as well as amnesia that means he cannot remember any of the last 15 years, including his wife and dead child. A week later, Chris returns home, but his interactions with his wife and the once-familiar house are awkward. Eventually, he insists on seeing Margaret, a woman he had been in love with 15 years earlier. Kitty, believing that her beauty and wealth are no match for the frumpy Margaret, permits it. Jenny reassures Chris that Kitty really is his wife and his life with her is real. Chris, in turn, tells her that his love from Monkey Island was also real.

Jenny then tells the story of the two lovers on the island, as she reconstructs it from Chris's account. In a memorable scene, Margaret peers in through her own window and imagines not knowing about Chris's love.

From the rich town of Harrowweald, Jenny heads over to nearby Wealdstone, a poor, working-class place marked by industry, in order to fetch Margaret. On her way, Jenny see Chris boating as though he had returned to his boyhood. Jenny finds Margaret's miserable house, Mariposa (Spanish for "butterfly"), and meets her bumbling husband, William Grey. Jenny hears Margaret's side of the original affair, and learns that the two had a falling out when Chris mistook her friendship with another man. After Chris's departure and the death of Margaret's father, she left Monkey Island, with instructions to forward her mail. When she visits years later, the new owner gives her some letters from Chris that she never received, but it is too late: she had already married William. Margaret is increasingly convinced that Margaret is some kind of saint. The two women watch from the nursery window as Margaret and Chris run toward each other and embrace.

Kitty employs Dr. Gilbert Anderson, a psychoanalyst, to try and cure Chris of his amnesia. However, Jenny increasingly believes that Margaret is some kind of mystical blessing that has saved Chris, even though it has come at the expense of his connection to Kitty and Jenny. Jenny finds the two lovers in the woods, with Chris sleeping in Margaret's arms. She tells them about the doctor coming that afternoon.

Dr. Anderson talks with Chris, and concludes that the regression has occurred because, in his former life, he had unconsciously been deeply unhappy. Meanwhile, Margaret learns about Oliver, and reveals that she, too, had a son named Dick whose circumstances mirror those of Chris's son. She suggests that confronting Chris with the memory of Oliver would cure his amnesia. Jenny takes Margaret to the nursery and both women hesitate over whether they should bring Chris back: would it not be better for him to remain in his state of enchantment? Eventually they decide that facing up to reality is the more difficult but rewarding path, and so Margaret goes to show Chris his son's belongings. The strategy works: Chris walks back to the house with the air of a man and a soldier.

There is a provocative ambivalence to West's ending for, like in the aforementioned works by James, there is no satisfaction to be derived from what appears, by all conventions, to be a "desirable" ending. The inheritance of Milly Theale's money (in The Wings of the Dove) or the smashing of the golden bowl provide no resolution, except insofar as they delineate and harden the impossible paradoxes of the unhappy situations that gave rise to them in the first place.

The return of the soldier, the restoration of Chris Baldry's memory, is a brilliant repudiation of romantic and mystical ideas in their many forms - religious, sexual, social, and most of all, nationalistic. In a similar vein to D.H. Lawrence, but more incisively, West refutes the idealization of England as a country of pastoral idylls and rustic beauty.

The war is a symptom of England's underlying illness, an unacknowledged unhappiness that has repeatedly caused it to suppress reality in favor of an idealized past to which it insists on returning. In this respect, West's novel is not only brutally insightful about her own period, but the century or so that has passed since. England continues to live in a delusion of its past grandeur, against all evidence that such a time has passed, and while Chris finds his own bitter "cure" at the novel's end, I don't see this repeated cycle of regression ending any time soon. ( )
  vernaye | May 23, 2020 |
Visa 1-5 av 72 (nästa | visa alla)
Though its style is occasionally a trifle strained, a trifle "Precious," the novel is on the whole, well written, and its plot well handled.
tillagd av christiguc | ändraNew York Times (Mar 10, 1918)
 

» Lägg till fler författare (23 möjliga)

Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Rebecca Westprimär författarealla utgåvorberäknat
Glendinning, VictoriaInledningmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Hynes, SamuelInledningmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Jones, SadieEfterordmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Jones, SadieInledningmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
May, NadiaBerättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Vidal, LauraÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
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'Ah, don't begin to fuss!' wailed Kitty; 'if a woman began to worry in these days because her husband hadn't written to her for a fortnight -- !'
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We had suffered no transfiguration, for we are as we are, and there is nothing more to us. The whole truth about us lies in our material seeming. He sighs a deep sigh of delight and puts out his hand to the ball where Margaret shines. His sleeve catches the other one and sends it down to crash in a thousand pieces on the floor. The old man's smile continues to be lewd and benevolent; he is still not more interested in me than in the bare-armed woman. No one weeps for this shattering of our world.
...how entirely right Chris had been in his assertion that to lovers innumerable things do not matter.
"I don't know anybody in Wealdstone." That is the name of the red suburban stain which fouls the fields three miles nearer London than Harrowweald.
All her life long Margaret, who in her time had partaken of the inalienable dignity of a requited love, had lived with men who wore carpet slippers in the house.
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The soldier returns from the front to the three women who love him. His wife, Kitty, with her cold, moonlight beauty, and his devoted cousin Jenny wait in their exquisite home on the crest of the Harrow-weald. Margaret Allington, his first and long-forgotten love, is nearby in the dreary suburb of Wealdstone. But the soldier is shell-shocked and can only remember the Margaret he loved fifteen years before, when he was a young man and she an inn-keeper's daughter. His cousin he remembers only as a childhood playmate; his wife he remembers not at all. The women have a choice - to leave him where he wishes to be, or to 'cure' him. It is Margaret who reveals a love so great that she can make the final sacrifice.

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