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Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War    edited by Heather Webb order for
Fall of Poppies
by Heather Webb
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2016 (2016)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Fall of Poppies is a collection of short stories with the apt subtitle, 'Stories of Love and the Great War'. Most of the main characters are women with soldier loved ones, and these men include sons as well as husbands or sweethearts. In the last days of World War I, there was turmoil and confusion in the war zone, and sometimes men missing in action were presumed dead. Another kind of misunderstanding occurred because on Armistice Day, German soldiers were still in the occupied zones, and fighting on the ground and in the air continued right up to the 11:00 a.m. deadline for ending hostilities.

The first story, The Daughter of Belgium, begins on Nov. 7th. Amélie lives in a hospital in Brussels with her three-year-old daughter Hope, who was born after the young woman was brutally raped by German soldiers who were also responsible for the deaths of her parents. Amélie has become a nurse in gratitude to the matron of the hospital who took her in when she had nowhere to turn and allowed her to live in the hospital during the occupation. Now, after the rest of the nursing staff and most of the patients have been moved to a new hospital, she has been asked to care for a German soldier who remains, hidden from his commanding officer. During the following few days before Nov. 11th, she provides minimal and hostile care to the soldier and makes her own plans to escape, but when complications arise, Amélie receives help from a surprising source.

My favorite story, All for the Love of You, begins in March, 1925, when Daisy's father dies and she finds a letter from Daniel, who wrote to her father expressing his shock after being told that Daisy had died. She had helped to make a mask for Daniel to hide his facial injuries toward the end of the war, and they had become close, but she became suddenly ill and wasn't able to go to the clinic when he came for his final fitting. When he came to her house in Paris to see how she was, her father believed that the young American officer was not a suitable match for his daughter, so told Daniel that she had died. After Daisy reads his letter, she immediately begins to search for him, knowing only that he's the only man she has ever loved and is now an engineer living somewhere in New York.

Hush, the last story in the collection, takes the reader back and forth between a soldier lying injured in a muddy field in France, and his mother, a midwife trying to get a newborn baby to breathe. Her thoughts take her from this baby to her son when he was born, while her son struggles to survive in France.

The stories provide vivid pictures of battlefields and the home front in England, as well as places that were occupied by the German army. The characters are believable and portrayed as human in all their foibles, rather than as caricatures of the evil enemy or noble fighter. The young men who are fighting against the Germans struggle to be brave and miss those they left behind, while the women suffer their losses with grief and anger. Most of the stories end well, and one gets a good feel for what it was like to be there at the end of that war.

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