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The Return of the Soldier (1918)

por Rebecca West

Outros autores: Ver a secção outros autores.

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1,5557811,523 (3.88)615
Literature. Fiction. HTML:

When Captain Chris Baldry, a World War I soldier, is sent home with a severe case of shellshock amnesia, he is a stranger to his wife, Kitty, and his adoring cousin, Jenny. Recoiling from the horrors of war and disillusioned with years of superficial married life, his mind has regressed fifteen years, where his heart may take refuge once again in the magic circle of his youth and of his first love, Margaret Allington.

In this lyrical and poignant story of a wounded man and the three concerned women who seek to heal him, Rebecca West explores the complexity of the mind and its subtle strategies for coping with life's painful realities. Only when Chris has the courage to face one pivotal moment of truth in his married life will he be able to awaken from his boyish fantasy and become, indeed, "every inch a soldier."

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… (mais)
  1. 40
    A Month in the Country por 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
    The Remains of the Day por Kazuo Ishiguro (fannyprice)
  3. 00
    Between the Sword and the Wall: a novel of World War I por Thomas De Angelo (Charles77)
  4. 00
    The Return of Captain John Emmett por Elizabeth Speller (inge87)
  5. 00
    The Age of Innocence por Edith Wharton (amanda4242)
  6. 00
    How Should One Read a Book? por Virginia Woolf (davidcla)
  7. 00
    This Real Night por Rebecca West (davidcla)
    davidcla: The sending off of the soldier to WW1.
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Mostrando 1-5 de 77 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
"I suppose that the subject of our tragedy written in spiritual terms, was that in Kitty he had turned from the type of woman that makes the body conqueror of the soul, and in me the type that mediates between the soul and the body and makes them run even and unhappy like a well-matched pair of carriage horses, and had given himself to a woman whose bleak habit it was to champion the soul against the body."

This is a war novel, but we are never at the front, and the focus is not on the soldier, Chris, but on the three women in his life--his wife Kitty, his cousin and childhood companion Jenny (who is also the narrator), and his first love Margaret. When the novel opens Kitty and Jenny are at Chris's estate, and he is away at the front, when they receive a visit from Margaret, a dowdy, lower-class woman who informs them that Chris has been wounded.

At first Kitty and Jenny refuse to believe Margaret, this drudge they have never heard of--why wasn't Kitty as Chris's wife informed of this by the war office? But it turns out to be true. Chris is shell-shocked and suffering from amnesia--he does not remember his wife Kitty or that they had a child who died. What he does remember is Margaret, his first love, who is now the dowdy woman who visited Kitty and Jenny.

Chris is returned to his estate to recuperate and to recover his memories. Despite various attempts to convince him that he is married to Kitty, he is happy only in the company of Margaret. Though she looks old, worn, and poor, she has an inner peace about her, and Chris sees, not her worn physical appearance but the inner glow that comes through. Kitty never warms to Margaret and wants only to bring Chris back to the present, even though "curing" him will mean sending him back to the front. Jenny wavers between letting Chris live happily in the past with Margaret or bringing him back to the present reality.

Although this is a war novel, we see and experience little of the war; instead we see the devastating effects of the war, what it does to one's senses, both to a soldier and to civilians. There is also a lot in this short novel about the struggle between the classes. It was very much grating on me to read how disdainfully Jenny and especially Kitty spoke about Margaret: "They hated her as the rich hate the poor as insect things that will struggle out of the crannies which are their decent home and introduce ugliness to the light of day...." The book was somewhat different from what I was expecting, but I'm glad I read it.

3 stars ( )
3 vote arubabookwoman | Jan 29, 2024 |
The wages of war pay far and long. The story is so heartbreakingly tragic, but beautifully told. Sentences run long and sometimes seem to lose the thread, but there are many rewards to be found in West's clever, poetic, evocative delivery. This book deserves its place on the 102 greatest books by female authors, which I'm slowly but surely working through. ( )
  mlevel | Jan 22, 2024 |
A soldier, shell-shocked in the trenches of WWI, has lost all memory of the previous fifteen years, leaving him with idyllic memories of young love with an innkeeper's daughter. His arrogant upper-crust wife is a complete stranger, and a cousin (who relates the story) he remembers only as a child. A potential cure means he faces the memory of all the horrors of the front. Is this a real cure or is he better off sick? Even the doctor sees no urgency for change.

The opening chapter filled with upper class horror of anything below them almost put me off reading this book. A woman is noticed approaching the house and Kitty (the soldier's wife) is horrified - ugh, she is badly dressed, ugly, not one of us, don't open the door… That attitude prevails. While the wife is painted as saintly, the other woman, her clothing, her umbrella, is cruelly disparaged.

West's descriptions of nature are lengthy and beautiful, but of necessity character development is minimal as she focuses in on the small group. It is unfortunate that the author used outrageous class prejudice to highlight the tragedy, evidently unable to to recognize that it would be just as devastating in any circumstances. The result is overly romantic but as the author was aged 24 when she wrote this, her first novel, in 1918, maybe it is understandable. ( )
  VivienneR | Apr 15, 2023 |
This is the story of a soldier during WWI who returns home shell-shocked. He can't remember the last 15 years of his life, including the marriage to his wife. He does remember a summer "love" and the two meet frequently in the garden, the wife begrudgingly agreeing that it might bring back Chris' memory. It doesn't and the wife grows more bitter. Not only is this about the horror of the Great War, it is the story of brutal class warfare. The author writes very lyrically. It was a very slow moving book. Favorite quote, "She isn't beautiful any longer. She's drearily married. She's seamed and scored and ravaged by squalid circumstances. You can't love her when you see her." 140 pages ( )
  Tess_W | Feb 14, 2023 |
What a haunting novella this is and one in which the title takes on a completely different meaning as the story progresses. There is so much depth to this story. It can be seen as a treatise on what war does to those who fight it and those who await their return, a tale about the degrees of love people experience and the sacrifices they are willing (or unwilling) to make for the good of one another, or a tragedy about the irrevocable loss of youth and innocence and the longing of the soul to recapture that time.

It has often been said that no man returns from a war unchanged, and this is all too true, but Chris Baldry has found the one way to avoid that fate, and that is to wipe the war and the fifteen years that preceded it from his mind. In this state of regression, we are allowed to see the different faces of love and loss in Chris’ life--the wife who seems to love the idea of a perfect husband rather than the man himself, the cousin who loves the man but finds there is much about him that she does not know or understand, and the love of his youth who loves him purely and unconditionally.

Perhaps it is the experience of the war that enables Chris to see beyond the surface and the material and recognize the value of the loving, though less glamorous, Margaret. He has, after all, just come from the devastation and death of the battlefield. For our narrator, the cousin Jenny, who is still under the sway of the opulence of the things they own and the mansion they live in, it takes a while to see beyond Margaret’s ugly yellow coat and frumpy housewife demeanor and into the open heart that embraces this man for his soul, offering him peace through her presence. Chris’ wife, the cold and elegant Kitty, learns nothing from Margaret. In the end, she represents the rules of society--the ones that demand we marry a person of equal status and pretend to a perfect life, and the ones that send young men off to the horrors of war.

I do not generally like to give away any plot elements when I review a book, but I found this review impossible to write without including perhaps too much of its content. For such a short book, it carries a strong message and delivers it with beautifully structured sentences, brilliant descriptions, and forceful writing. I have no doubt that I will be thinking about it for some time.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 77 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Though its style is occasionally a trifle strained, a trifle "Precious," the novel is on the whole, well written, and its plot well handled.
adicionada por christiguc | editarNew York Times (Mar 10, 1918)
 

» Adicionar outros autores (23 possíveis)

Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Rebecca Westautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Glendinning, VictoriaIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Hynes, SamuelIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Jones, SadiePosfácioautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Jones, SadieIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
May, NadiaNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Vidal, LauraTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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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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Literature. Fiction. HTML:

When Captain Chris Baldry, a World War I soldier, is sent home with a severe case of shellshock amnesia, he is a stranger to his wife, Kitty, and his adoring cousin, Jenny. Recoiling from the horrors of war and disillusioned with years of superficial married life, his mind has regressed fifteen years, where his heart may take refuge once again in the magic circle of his youth and of his first love, Margaret Allington.

In this lyrical and poignant story of a wounded man and the three concerned women who seek to heal him, Rebecca West explores the complexity of the mind and its subtle strategies for coping with life's painful realities. Only when Chris has the courage to face one pivotal moment of truth in his married life will he be able to awaken from his boyish fantasy and become, indeed, "every inch a soldier."

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