For a blog dedicated to books, I write surprisingly few book reviews.
I feel insecure when writing a review, worrying I don’t share enough or share too much. Or maybe my thoughts don’t make sense and won’t promote the book well.
Really, it’s too much drama.
Yes, this is a silly thing.
Every now and then, though, book comes along that I have to share. Like, Daisy Jones & the Six, A Man Called Ove, and The Book Thief. But those books are obvious winners. Maybe this one is too, but I want to help spread the word.
Lovely War by Julie Berry fascinated me. I’ve read a handful of WWII-era novels in recent years, so they seemed to rise in popularity. (Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein comes to mind. Fabulous book.) Honestly? I don’t love wartime books. The reasons should be obvious, but I tend to read books that make me feel good. War, obviously, doesn’t usually evoke much feel-good.
This book, though. I just kept thinking, “How in the world did this author come up with this?” One critic said the author “writes the past as if she lived it,” and I completely agree.
The story is technically set in December 1942, but the majority is set between 1914-1918, the era of World War I. It’s a remembered love story told by–wait for it–Aphrodite. Yes, the Greek goddess of love herself tells a gripping love story between a British soldier and a beautiful dame he met right before shipping off to France.
She’s telling the story to her husband, Hephaestus, god of fire/forge, and her sometimes-lover, Ares, god of war. She also pulls in Apollo, god of music (there are a few musicians mixed into the love story, as it also circles the birth of jazz), and Hades, god of the underworld (because…wartime).
Aphrodite tells this story to reveal what “real love looks like” and speaks of how she envies the mortals, who chose the pains of love even with their limited time on the planet (as opposed to gods, who are immortal).
Her story follows Hazel Windicott, a promising pianist, as she meets James Alderidge, a young man with a week left before deployment in France. Their story winds through the pains of separation and the horrors of war.
As a volunteer for the YMCA, Hazel travels to France to entertain soldiers with her music. She befriends Colette, a grief-stricken Belgian who lost her entire family to the Germans, and American Aubrey Edwards, a black pianist who joined the war and faces racial prejudice from his own countrymen across the Atlantic. (Spoiler!) As with any good love story, these two fall in love as well.
The author, Julie Berry, pulled in plenty of “based on a true story” moments, and I loved learning about numerous details from the early 1900s. I feel like World War II has gotten a lot more attention, so I’m fuzzy on the WWI details, like the Harlem Hellfighters and how the YMCA sent volunteers overseas to care for soldiers when they weren’t on the frontlines.
I just…I loved this book, y’all. Though, Hades nearly made me throw the book across the room, so fair warning.
Now, I’m keeping my eye out for a lovely pink coat.
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First off, I LOVED Tweet Cute by Emma Lord and stayed up waaay too late reading the second half last weekend. My heart was sad when I returned it to the library.
I finished Lovely War yesterday and have moved onto There’s Something about Sweetie by Sandhya Menon. I read When Dimple Met Rishi awhile back, and this is the YA sequel. It’s fun to have the smallest glimpse into Indian-American culture, and I think Sandhya Menon does a wonderful job. See? Young-adult novels fill my need for happy, fun books. I mean, there’s always some angst, but as long as it’s not too…angsty…Mama’s happy.