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review 2018-07-04 11:20
The Return of the Soldier (Virago Modern Classics) - Rebecca West

Kitty and Jenny sit at home, awaiting the end of the war and the return of Chris, Kitty’s husband and Jenny’s cousin. However he returns to them sooner, suffering amnesia from shell-shock. He can remember Jenny and Margaret, his first love, but has no recollection of Kitty. Between the women they have to decide if they should allow Chris to remain 15 years in the past or to find a cure. That cure will be an act of love.

 

It is little wonder that Chris resorts to only remembering his past. It is a coping mechanism, his brain’s way of allowing him to heal, by remembering the happiest time of his life. It is telling perhaps that his mind does not remember the early courtship with his wife, though she is inextricably linked to the loss of his son.

 

The house and it’s grounds are idealised. It is the house of old that Chris longs to return to, a place for him to be comfortable and to heal. Jenny marvels at its beauty in the present day, at the wonderful grounds and the many changes wrought by Kitty. With Chris’ situation her eyes are opened to the fact that these changes may not be as welcome to him as once believed.

 

The house and it’s setting are also used to juxtapose the battlefields. Rebecca West doesn’t attempt to portray the horror of war. It is mentioned briefly by Jenny, referring to the film reels seen and the dreams they cause. However the reader is left to imagine the scenes, stark in their absence, when compared with the idyllic life Chris has left behind. To Jenny it is a haven, a cocoon to keep them safe. The house is in a perpetual golden glow if her descriptions are to believed but it becomes more apparent that it may be something of a gilded cage.

 

Kitty isn’t a particularly likeable character. She seemed less concerned with Chris’ mental health than how it affected her. She thinks that by draping herself in the jewels he bought her, he will suddenly remember her. Her avoidance of him seems more caused by petulance than anxiety. She is discourteous to Margaret, though this seems less to do with jealousy and more to do with snobbery. Jenny is a more complex character. She views Margaret initially with disdain, a disdain towards her poverty and obvious signs of beauty than anything else. She is quick to assume that Margaret is unhappy with her life in her pokey little house, that her lack of style and money has leached her of beauty. She misses the signs of fidelity that are briefly brought before her when Margaret and her husband interact. She fails, initially, to see the beauty behind the shabby clothes. But she gets to know Margaret, learns the history of her and Chris and soon comes to rely on her. Margaret is ultimately selfless. She does attend on Chris in part to remember happier days, to relive her youth and in some respects to obtain closure or to confirm her life choices. She is also there for Chris, to help him heal. Chris is the tie that binds them together and though he is the focal point for the women, it is those women that are very much the focal point of the novel.

 

This is a slim volume, but nonetheless is an effecting story, despite it’s size. It is a quiet, beautifully told story of love and war. Recommended.

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review 2016-12-28 15:43
Die Rückkehr des Soldaten
Die Rückkehr: Roman - Rebecca West,Britta Mümmler

Während des 1. Weltkriegs halten Jenny und Kitty Baldry das Landgut der Familie auf Vordermann. Alles soll perfekt sein, wenn Kittys Ehemann Chris, der Herr des Hauses, von der Front aus Frankreich zurückkommt. Doch dann erhalten sie die Nachricht, dass der geliebte Ehemann und Cousin einen Granatenschock erlitten hat, und sich an nichts aus der jetzigen Zeit erinnern kann.

Als vordergründiges Thema werden der 1. Weltkrieg sowie der „Granatenschock“ an sich angepriesen. Meinem Empfinden nach sind diese beiden Aspekte aber sehr in den Hintergrund gerutscht und es ist ein kleines Gesellschaftsdrama geblieben, das die feinere Gesellschaft in ihre Schranken weist.

Chris leidet unter einem Granatenschock. Dabei sind die Soldaten äußerlich unversehrt, haben aber mit psychischen Symptomen zu kämpfen, die zu dieser Zeit nicht immer anerkannt wurden. In Chris’ Fall kann er sich an sein gegenwärtiges Leben nicht erinnern und hängt einer Liebe aus der Vergangenheit nach. Die Geliebte, die er vor 15 Jahren kennengelernt hat, ist mit von der häuslichen Partie und so ergibt sich eine merkwürdige Vierecksbeziehung, die der übergreifende Rahmen ist.

Als Protagonistin habe ich seine Cousine Jenny empfunden. Sie ist bei Chris’ Ehefrau Kitty geblieben und die beiden Frauen haben für Ordnung im herrschaftlichen Anwesen gesorgt. Nun nimmt sie die Rolle der Vermittlerin ein und setzt alles daran, Chris wieder gesund zu bekommen. Dabei zögern die Frauen nicht einmal, die einstige Geliebte ins Haus zu holen.

Kitty, Lady des Hauses und Chris’ Ehefrau, kommt meiner Meinung nach zu unrecht sehr schlecht in der Geschichte weg. Sie wird als oberflächlicher Dekorgegenstand beschrieben, der sich gegen die alte Liebe ihres Ehemanns stellt. Ich hoffe, hier sieht man anhand meiner Wortwahl schon, wie unfair ich diese Darstellung empfinde, denn immerhin hat Chris auch Kitty geheiratet und sie kann nichts dafür, dass er sie sich als Ehefrau genommen hat.

Der Schreibstil ist trotz der fast 100 Jahre angenehm zu lesen und die Beschreibungen an sich sind der Autorin gut gelungen. Auch mit den Charakteren konnte ich mitfühlen und sie wurden für ein doch recht knappes Werk exzellent abgebildet.

Dieses Buch hat bestimmt literarischen Wert. Vor allem wenn man bedenkt, dass es das einzige zeitgenössische Werk über den 1. Weltkrieg ist, das von einer Frau geschrieben wurde. Trotzdem muss ich sagen, dass es mir insgesamt nicht besonders gefallen hat, weil es mir einfach zu wenig Bezug zum Kriegsgeschehen und zur damaligen Gesellschaft herstellt.

Klassikerfreunde sollten sich wohl unbedingt ein eigenes Bild von Rebecca Wests „Die Rückkehr“ machen, obwohl ich nicht das Gefühl habe, dass mir ohne dieses Buch viel entgangen wäre. 

 
Source: zeit-fuer-neue-genres.blogspot.co.at
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review 2016-08-22 00:00
The Return of the Soldier
The Return of the Soldier - Rebecca West 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?
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review 2016-01-30 00:05
The Return of the Soldier - Verlyn Klinkenborg,Rebecca West,Norman Price

Lost chances and missed opportunities, resignation, change, war, suppression and oppression are among the themes surrounding West’s novel. For such a short novel, it is heavy. The heaviness is pervasive and there is no sense of reprieve for any of the characters. The novel’s narrator does begin her story almost with an apology…things aren’t as they seem…the people you’ll meet will not be in their best form. What unfolds is a highly depressing tale for our protagonist Chris. Though he once found happiness in his youth, he let it fall away in a sudden moment of angry frustration. The life he currently has with his wife is likewise frustrating…a wife of cold, statuesque beauty who has turned his home into a modern palace. When reading, one might readily notice elements that Daphne du Maurier would later develop in her novel Rebecca

 

The effects of war have left Chris in shell shocked repressed state. But even in this state, he’s unhappy and unsatisfied. Though he is given the opportunity to rekindle his friendship with his lost first love, Margaret, there is still an underlying unhappiness and unrest. Though initially Margaret does seem to be a voice of reason, this feeling is soon lost when she’s left to make fanciful, mystical notions about the children they both lost in the new relationships they had forged.

 

Once Chris “awakens” from his repressed fog, he is left with only one course to take—a course that is seemingly no better than any of the others with which he has faced. West’s novel is about loneliness and aloneness met in various states.

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review 2015-10-18 00:00
The Return Of The Soldier
The Return Of The Soldier - Rebecca West,Sadie Jones review to come
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