HEART OF WAR by John Masters

HEART OF WAR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Second monster volume in the World War I trilogy that began with Now, God Be Thanked (1979), this covers 1916 and 1917, with very much the same cast. As before, the pre-War Eden is crumbling fast: muddying-up of class distinctions, sale of tainted canned foods to soldiers, unionization of industry, splitting-off of Ireland, America's long loss of innocence before coming into the battle, breakdown of sexual morals, and, above all, the hideous image of 40,000 unrecovered British dead ground into the mud of the Western Front. And Masters' characters (about 40 of them) are arranged so as to reflect all these social upheavals. Bert Gorse, agitator at the Jupiter Motor Corporation, shoots off his toe to avoid conscription and refuses to fight any rich man's war (British or German). Middle-aged Bob Stratton, foreman at the motor company, gets twelve-year-old Violet Gorse pregnant, and is sent to Viennese alienist Dr; Charles Deerfield--who in turn is seducing the highborn, newlywed Stella Rowland and turning her into a heroin addict (her baby dies, unable to breathe). Stella's sexless American husband Johnny Merritt, top man at the New Hedlington Aircraft Company, yearns to be a fighter pilot but is color blind. Tom Rowland is now a naval commander, but his homosexuality is exposed by an anonymous letter to his commanding officer, and he's transferred from active sea duty to submarine training. Christopher Cate fights for the Irish in the Dublin uprisings while falling in love with wealthy American Isabel Kramer. Stella's aunt Fiona wants to leave her husband Quentin for boorish Scottish painter Archie Campbell--but Archie leaves her instead, joins the army, and winds up as Quentin's adjutant in the charnel house at Flanders. Flamingly handsome Fletcher Gorse is a poet modeled on Rupert Brooke, while twin sister Florinda is a slut who marries a pickled millionaire, becomes a marchioness, and satisfies her ambition to go on the stage. And Guy Rowland is the flying ace with 52 kills who vomits after each landing and who spends a deeply comradely night with his arch-enemy of the skies, von Racken. . . . Stock characters all, though rounded out professionally enough. And Masters, while never falling below a certain very respectable standard, also never rises to the heights needed to energize a war epic of Tolstoyan dimensions. So this is a solid follow-up to the somewhat more involving first volume (and only readers of Now, God Be Thanked will really be able to absorb it all)--but, though meaty and reasonably suspenseful, the saga has now become rather monotonic, not profoundly engaging.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
Publisher: McGraw-Hill