Innocence, devastation and restored hope cycle through two British couples after the men go to France to fight World War I and the women cope with their absence in very different ways. This is Young's first adult novel to be published in the United States.
An epic love story, a grim war chronicle, a class study, a heartwarming tale of overcoming—London native Young's page-turner has Masterpiece Classic written all over it. Riley Purefoy, a bright, wide-eyed, working class boy, falls for the sweet, privileged and equally adoring Nadine Waveney after stumbling into a childhood job posing for her neighbor, a famous painter. At 18, still a prize model and still in love with Nadine, Riley enlists to flee from an embarrassing encounter with a gay student painter. He proves a good soldier and rises in rank, but immersed in daily traumas, sinks into disillusionment and then worse after a part of his face is shot off. Meanwhile, Riley's battle-scarred commanding officer, Peter Locke, is consumed by alcohol. Back home, while Nadine works as a volunteer nurse for returning soldiers, Peter's wife Julia obsesses over her looks after being rebuffed by him during a short leave. She risks a very different kind of plastic surgery than a devoted doctor performs on Riley to reconstruct his jaw. While following the conventions of Victorian-era fiction (unbeknownst to him, Riley's caregiver is Peter's cousin), Young brings a modern, frill-free sensibility to the material. There's considerably less sentimentality than you usually encounter in such stories. Young, a graceful and light-handed writer, offers a powerful account of war, and her detailed descriptions of the experimental reconstructive surgery add a compelling element to the story.
A literate, moving wartime tale in which love triumphs over despair.