Friday, 14 May 2010

Return of the soldier (West) 32

The return of the soldier was Rebecca West's first novel, and I have to say that this slim volume is the one I've enjoyed most out of all of her books which I've read so far. It felt like quite a different sort of work to her Cousin Rosamund trilogy or to Harriet Hume.

The soldier in question is Chris; he has been fighting in the first world war, his return is marred by shell shock and the fact that he cannot remember the last 15 years of his life. The last fifteen years include his marriage to Kitty, his beautiful wife; he remembers himself as still being in love with his childhood sweetheart Margaret. The women involved have the choice as to whether to leave him as he is, with this huge gap in his memory, or try to effect some sort of "cure".

The book is narrated by his cousin Jenny, herself also somewhat in love with Chris, and her narration provides West with a means to explore the consequences of the damages of war. It is this which makes the book very much more than just a simple return from war/love story, and thus the basis for West's more philosophically books. The prose is absolutely beautiful, so I would definitely recommend this one, especially to those, like me with an interest in the World Wars and their consequences.

The novel has been published three times by Virago; my copy bought from Amazon is the most recent edition, I wish very much it had been the older green one to complement my two other original green Rebecca Wests - I think the oldest one is by far the nicest cover. It has also been published prolifically by other publishers, obviously indicating its popularity.


  1. This sounds wonderful. Your description reminded me of the film A Very Long Engagement which I loved.

  2. I read The Return of the Soldier many years ago, and found it dreamlike and beautiful. I should probably reread it, since I remember loving it so well...

  3. I read The Return of the Soldier when I was 13 or 14 and it made a deep impression on me. I think I have to re-read it now.