World War I, in the background of Rebecca West's first novel, was "the first war that women could imagine," writes Samuel Hynes in his eloquent introduction, " and so it was the first that a woman could write into a novel." Narrated by a woman who, like West, has never experienced war and yet for whom the war was very real, The Return of The Solider takes place not on a battlefield, but in an isolated country house. It examines the relationships between three women and a soldier suffering from shell shock. This novel of an enclosed world invaded by public events also embodies in its characters the shifts in England's class structures at the beginning of the twentieth century, as well as the choice between the romantic past and the horrifying present, between love and reality.
Writing her first novel during World War I, West examines the relationship between three women and a soldier suffering from shell-shock. This novel of an enclosed world invaded by public events also embodies in its characters the shifts in England's class structures at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Samuel Hynes is Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature Emeritus at Princeton University and the author of several major works of literary criticism, including The Auden Generation, Edwardian Occasions, and The Edwardian Turn of Mind. Hynes's wartime experiences as a Marine Corps pilot were the basis for his highly praised memoir, Flights of Passage. The Soldiers' Tale, his book about soldiers' narratives of the two world wars and Vietnam, won a Robert F. Kennedy Award. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
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