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 Four little women and how they toughed it through World War I: a lively romance so knowing, it's practically jaded--filled with torment, triumph, a panorama of blood and guts, and genitally specific sex. In her American debut, British journalist and author Saunders writes a Rosetta stone of a historical romance, packing in every sentimental convention known to woman. To her credit, she keeps her storylines fresh and energetic and skillfully interwoven until her satisfyingly predictable end. She follows four schoolgirls, who in 1907 take a blood oath to stand by one another no matter what. With multiheroines, no plot possibility escapes Saunders's attention, including the grisly war, women's suffrage, nursing on the front lines, Irish home rule, and the influenza epidemic of 1918. Scottish Jenny sacrifices her true love, Jamie, and their dream to work side by side at a Glasgow clinic for the poor, to marry wealthy, blinded Alistair, who was saved from certain death by his loyal terrier Inky. The dog's wild keening on the battlefield brought stretcher carriers to his master's side. Fine-boned Francesca, an incest survivor with a black fear of sex, marries her mother's young lover, who goes to war to redeem himself. Eleanor, who longs to suffer for love, marries dark, brooding Lorenzo, a wife-beater with mesmerizing eyelashes who obliges her. And red- haired Aurora (``Rory'')--Irish tomboy, suffragette, and ambulance driver--after travails too numerous to mention, finds her heart's desire close to home with Lord Oughterard (``Muttonhead''), a man with unimpeachable personal integrity and an ``endless'' erection. Though sluggish at first, it's an endearingly trashy read. Saunders's heroines achieve orgasm and find true love somewhere near the armistice, or die trying. (First serial to Good Housekeeping)

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1994
ISBN: 0-525-93764-1
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1994


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