Lovely War by Julie Berry
Published: March 5, 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Dates Read: March 2-4, 2019
Synopsis: It’s 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She’s a shy and talented pianist; he’s a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it’s immediate and deep–and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.
Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who’s played Carnegie Hall, he’s a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that’s before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who’s already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.
Thirty years after these four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love. (from Goodreads)
Wait. Did that say, “the power of Love”? Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…
The ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This was quite a touching read. Since taking Literature of the Great War in college, I’ve been interested in World War I, and I think Berry did a good job. She explored love, loss, shell shock, racism, women’s work during the war, and lasting injuries–mental, physical, and emotional. She also didn’t let everyone get out scot-free. This is still a war novel, and since it has two love stories but isn’t technically in the romance genre, I expected to be worried for our little lovebirds the entire time before even starting the novel.
Berry included some Greek gods in the novel, namely Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Hades, and Hephaestus. I liked the way they narrated it, and I could clearly see the nuances in their styles. I did not, however, like the interjecting courtroom scenes with the gods in 1942. I know it was to connect the two wars, but I just think it could have been done differently. It pulled me out of the story, and I found myself nearly skimming their parts. The beginning, especially, was jarring. Despite that and knowing a bit about these gods from studying mythology and Greek culture in college (lots of old memories coming back after reading this book), I could see the connections between the gods themselves and the parts that they narrated. I could even tell who was narrating what if I didn’t pay attention to the headings at the beginning of the chapters.
I think this is a good book for the young adult audience. It doesn’t water down the war, racism, or their implications, but it still captures that coming-of-age feeling through the ways in which these characters grow up with and through the war.
- “You’re a brand-new piece of sheet music,” she said slowly, “for a song which, once played, I’d swear I’d always known.” (Loc 513)
- If music stops, and art ceases, and beauty fades, what have we then? (Loc 780)
- But most seasoned soldiers he’d met were like this. Laughing at their own destruction, casual about carnage. Maybe laughing was the only way to survive it all. (Loc 1994)
- Lies are worse than no comfort at all. Especially to a mind already scorched by the truth. (Loc 2954)
- Build and destroy, build and destroy. This game never grew old. (Loc 3478)
- “We see what we’re capable of seeing,” says Hades. (Loc 3846)