I received this book written by Allegra Jordan as a pre-release e-book from Netgalley. The book was initially released under the title Harvard 1914, acquired by Sourcebooks and re-edited, to be released August 1914, the 100 year anniversary of the Great War. (This is going to be a great year for World War I books).
Helen Brooks, an affluent young woman from a Bostonian family, is off to Radcliffe as Europe goes to war. She goes to school under the umbrella of scandal, as her mother has been working with Margaret Sanger, promoting contraception. Her mother has been arrested twice for this work, and several of Helen’s prospects have fizzled out, as her family becomes the talk of Boston for such acts of impropriety. Her brother, Peter, is a student at Harvard, and has several friends he wishes to shelter Helen from. One of these is Riley, a British playboy, and Wils, his German cousin. Wils and Helen get off on the wrong foot at a party, but over the course of a few weeks, they fall in love. Of course, there is a war looming, and being German, Wils is duty bound to return home and fight for the Kaiser. Wils and Helen cement their relationship and off he goes. Riley leaves as well, to do his duty, fighting for the King.
Upon Wils’ departure from Harvard, the story centers around Riley and Wils, and their respective battles on the front. This is a good look at the two sides of the early days of the the Great War and the privations that both sides had to face. The war ends and life must return to a semblance of normalcy. This is where the description of the book ends, lest I introduce spoilers.
The book was beautifully written and was Jordan’s debut novel. It took the author several years to finish, and it was time well spent. For those of you who have read my book review for The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, you will know how much I loved that work. While I do not usually like to compare authors and/or works, I feel I must here. There were several aspects of this novel that put me (comfortingly, I might add) of a mind of Gilbert’s work. (Since reading Gilbert’s novel and being heartbroken by the fact it ended, I have struggled to fill the void left by that excellent work. This book did just that.) The working relationship Helen has with her father and the span of years itself. This was an excellent read I am glad I undertook, and yes, I was absolutely shattered that it ended. Definitely a recommendation.