I am ending the week by commemorating the Centenary of World War I with another review of an historical fiction novel set during The Great War. Each one of the novels I have reviewed have given me a better understanding and deeper appreciation of the struggles, hardship and losses that this war leashed on the world.
In This is How I’d Love You, Charles Reid comes from a wealthy family in New York City that has made its fortunes in textiles. Charles’ father assumes that Charles will take over the family business, but Charles wants to carve out his own path in life and go to medical school. He decides to enlist as a Medic for the American Field Service volunteers in World War I and is sent to France where he recues the maimed and charred bodies of soldiers from the battlefield. One of the few things that helps him keep his sanity and some glimmer of hope is the letters he receives from Sacha Dench in which they are exchanging moves for a long distance chess match.
Sacha Dench is a writer for the Times living in New York City with his daughter Hensley. Mr. Dench is a pacifist and his anti-war editorials have gotten him fired from his position at the Times. Mr. Dench takes a job as a superintendent of a mine in New Mexico and as he and his daughter Hensley are riding on the train out West, she contemplates her problems and what has become her unhappy existence. When Hensley reads some of her father’s letters from Charles Reid, she starts her own correspondence with the medic. Charles and Hensley are each stuck in horrible situations, in places far from home and their only ray of light in a dark world is their correspondence with each other. The letters that they write to each other are very moving and eloquent and one of my favorite parts of this book.
Hazel Woods makes the suffering on the battlefield come to life through the eyes of Charles Reid. He watches men who have been subjected to chlorine gas cough up their insides as they die a horrible and painful death. Charles has to slog through the muck and blood of the battle field to decide if any of the wounded are still alive and worth carrying back to the hospital. Throughout all of this he contemplates god and religion and the existence of faith in these horrendous circumstances.
Hazel Woods has written a beautiful historical novel that does justice to the atrocities that were suffered during World War I. THIS IS HOW I’D LOVE YOU also reminds us that when we truly love someone we look past their flaws and faults and love them anyway.
*Thanks so much to Penguin Plume Books and NetGalley for the Advance Copy. This book will be available on August 26th.