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My Dear I Wanted to Tell You    by Louisa Young order for
My Dear I Wanted to Tell You
by Louisa Young
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

I never thought I believed in reincarnation. After reading Louisa Young's My Dear I Wanted to Tell You, I'm not so sure about the whole idea. The novel is set just prior to World War I, during the war, and in its immediate aftermath. Here's where reincarnation comes in. If Young told me she was present in England and France at that time, I would believe her.

Her depiction of the period - the rigors of the fighting, the bombing, the wounded soldiers, the trenches, the deaths - seems right on. As though she had the job of reporting just what was happening during this dreadful time. The graphic episode involving doctors repairing a devastating facial wound made me cringe. If you are the least bit squeamish, skip this part. But don't put the book aside. You'd be missing the novel everyone will be talking about.

Romance enters the story. Not the loving, gentle awakening of feelings long suppressed, the romance we associate with ideal times. But the romance that is victorious despite unbelievable odds, and as such is more real and lasting.

Shell shock today's post traumatic stress disorder was a very real problem then as now. My mother met my father after the war, but their marriage survived under difficult times which only brought them closer, in spite of my father's terrifying nightmares.

Riley and Nadine have been childhood friends and were leaning towards more than friendship when the war intervened. We follow Riley through his part of the war and his reactions to realizing the conflict is not what he expected. His army nurse Rose follows his instructions with dread, but does as she is told. Nadine awaits his return.

Peter and Julia are another couple vastly affected by the long years of warfare. She's afraid of losing her beauty and therefore losing him. He struggles with feeling he wasn't the man for her.

This is a truly amazing rendition of World War I through the eyes of those who fought it. Do not miss this one, the first adult novel published in the United States by the author of the popular Lionboy trilogy (published in thirty-six languages!) Young lives in London in the house where Peter Pan was written.

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