The end of innocence

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Startling and powerful, this novel examines opposing forces during and after the first World War, with conflicts that are deeply personal as well as political. Harvard sets the stage for Helen, the Americn daughter of a conservative scholar and an activist mother, to meet Wils and Riley,  German poets and cousins, whose German and British ancestries land them on opposing sides in the European trenches. Campus politics echo the intense jingoism and violence of the time as the war intensifies overseas, with students acting on these deep prejudices and going to fight even before the United States is officially in the war.

Helen and Wils are soulmates in poetry and temperament, but poetry can not keep the war from ripping their lives apart.  Each character, major or minor, fights a war against modernism, or prejudice, or the status of women. Each conflict has consequences that are defined and defied during the war, and after.

I was shocked by an afterword: the author was inspired to write the book by a very real plaque in Harvard's Memorial Church, one that exemplifies the incoherence of society's response to war heroes, alive or dead.

Highly, highly recommended.

I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley. This is a fair review.

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