This is not a war, this is a test of how far man can be degraded.
Stephen is an Englishman traveling to France. He is staying with Azaire family in the gorgeous estate. He’s enjoying the beautiful French town, charming summer weather and falls passionately in love with Isabelle the host’s wife. Eventually, they elope and start a life together. However, they happiness doesn’t last long. With the outbreak of the Great War and the emotional struggles Stephen and Isabelle separate.
Stephen joins the army and lives through hell during the heavy battles in France. He reevaluates his life choices and tries to understand the difficult desitions Isabelle made. The thought of her is the main thing that keeps him alive.
Some crime against nature is about to be committed. I feel it in my veins. These men and boys are grocers and clerks, gardeners and fathers – fathers of small children. A country cannot bear to lose them.
The novel follows three different timelines; before the war (Stephen and Isabelle’s romance), during the war as Stephen fights the battles of the Somme and years after the war, told from the perspective of Stephen’s granddaughter Elizabeth.
Let me say that the war part was the most interesting, very captivating, emotional and intense and I kind of slept the other parts through. I didn’t connect to their romance. I didn’t understand why they even fell in love. And Isabelle’s weird behavior just stunned me and I got tired of rolling my eyes.
Stephen wasn’t an exciting character to follow either. It’s like he wasn’t fully present, he was just hanging there being all bitter and boring. Honestly, I enjoyed the supporting characters more; Grey, Weir, Brennan, Firebrace, and Shaw who were so brave, courageous and simply amazing. I loved watching them as they formed friendships on the battlefield, how their emotions towards the families back home and to each other changed. I got very moved by their stories and wept when someone died (such a crybaby). I would erase all the stupid love drama of Isabelle and Stephen and focus only on them.
Moreover, Elizabeth’s narrative was so unnecessary. I didn’t care about her affair with a married man and her struggles with letting him go. And what about her sudden interest with her grandfather’s life? Come on, she lived a selfish ignorant life for forty years and suddenly she cares about her grandfather’s past. You never even bothered to ask who your grandparents were for FORTY years! So I didn’t buy her sudden interest in family history and honoring the memory of her grandfather.
Bottom line: I enjoyed about a third of the book and absolutely hated the other two thirds. How do I rate that?