Saturday, December 04, 2010

Review: French Letters: Engaged In War

French Letters: Engaged In War
Jack Woodville London

Series or Stand Alone: French Letters Trilogy, book two

Release Date: September 2010

Publisher: Vire Press

Pages: 328

Author Site:

My Rating: 3/5

Source: Received for review from Phenix & Phenix Publicity


French Letters: Engaged in War, is the second book in the French Letters Trilogy. The companion to Virginia’s War, it is the story of Will Hastings, an army doctor caught up in the D-Day landings in Normandy and the drive to capture St. Lo, France. Isolated from Virginia Sullivan and the events taking place at home, Will faces the demands of combat surgery under fire and the losses of his brother, his friends, and his connection to home.

Historically accurate and precise and covering events from exactly the same time frame as the events in the first volume, Engaged in War is a novel of the will to survive when war, distance, loss, and the uncertainty of the future separate a couple far beyond the breaking point.

I've never really been a "war-time" reader and I'm pretty positive this is my first war-related novel. In school I sort of avoided all History classes if I could get away with it. I'm not too sure why I did that now that I think about it. Set in WWII, Engaged In War is the second in a trilogy and focuses on Will Hastings, a young army doctor. I usually don't like to step out of order when it comes to books, however the blurb caught my attention and I ended up accepting the request for review. The French Letter Trilogy, from what I gather, take place in the same time period but are told from a different character's perspective. So I don't think it bothers me that much that I went out of order.
It took me quite a while to become comfortable with the style of writing. I had a tough time figuring out who was the main character in the beginning and then I had an equally tough time keeping the secondary characters straight. I felt there was a lack of character depth in the secondary characters which caused me to get confused on who was who. But I suppose that's understandable because the focus of the story was on the effect this war had on the decisions people had to make in order to survive and live with themselves. War is hard on everyone, those personally involved and those "sitting on the sidelines". Will makes tough decisions everyday when treating soldiers and their specific wounds. But Will must also question his morals when faced with a court martial after being severely wounded.
I found that I liked the unique personality of Will although I couldn't quite grasp him entirely. After arriving on the beach in Normandy during the D-Day landings, Will's story really takes off. He's focused on finding out what really happened to his brother who is presumed dead from a glider crash. And yet despite that strong pull towards his brother's fate, Will still has this passion and drive to do his duty as an army doctor. His will, determination, and stamina make him a very likable character. His lack of contact with his girlfriend, Virginia Sullivan, back in his hometwon of Tierra, Texas causes a strain on Will's conncetion with his "normal" or former life. This leads to an easier attraction to a local farmgirl, Geraldine. His relationship with her symbolizes the connection between two people that crosses language and culture barriers since Will is and English speaking American and Geraldine is French and speaks very, very little English. Despite this, they are able to come together in a desperate time to fill a void that the War has caused them both.
It seems to me that this novel was very well researched because I actually caught something about WWII and the D-Day landings on my local public broadcasting station while reading it. The show on TV even went into some detail about some of the French countryside as well that was also a big part of the novel. Because like I mentioned earlier, I skipped as much History in school as I could so I'm pretty clueless about most of the wars that have happened in the past. But I'm fairly confident in saying that the author did a very good job in his research.
Overall, I enjoyed the novel. It did take me longer than I expected to finish it but don't let that deter you from giving it a try. I'm definitely interested in reading the first novel, Virginia's War, because it goes into detail about what happens with Virginia and things "back home". I'm also interested in seeing what book three will be about.


Blodeuedd said...

I always liked WWI better, it comes from reading poems from that that time and they were just beautiful in their horror

Mishel (P.S. I Love Books) said...

Blodeuedd - I'd love to read some of those poems. I'm not a huge history buff like I said, which is pretty sad, but I'm way more familiar with WWII.

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