There is something incredibly special about how Liz Trenow creates a novel; the atmosphere is incredible, the characters so well rounded you feel like you know them and the research impeccably done. In Love and War is Liz’s latest novel and it is my favourite of hers yet. I absolutely devoured it and it is a ‘book that will linger’ where you can’t stop thinking about certain elements of it. What a fantastic read.
After World War I what happened? People didn’t simply return home from the war and pick up their lives, people who lost loved ones couldn’t just move on and what about those missing in action? How did their family members cope with the not knowing? And what about the battlefields and the towns which were fought over? All those unidentified bodies and mass graves were they just abandoned? This novel really makes you think about the aftermath of war, how it wasn’t all back to normal as soon as the war was over but how so much more happened, so many more emotions and discoveries and personal fights began. In Love and War captures the full horror of the aftermath in a way I’ve not come across in any other war-related novels.
In Love and War tells the stories of 3 women all of which are looking for answers after losing a loved one to the war- did they definitely die? Where were they last seen? Are there people still there who met them and knew them?
Ruby is 21 and her husband was declared missing in action. His parents have heard about the tourism which is taking place across battlefields and encourage her to take part of one of the groups to see if she can find any answers about what happened to their beloved son. Ruby is shy and reserved, the idea of the trip terrifies her but she finds herself being talked into it and embarking on the journey feeling afraid, unprepared and guilty.
On the journey over, Ruby meets Alice. An American who is full of confidence and has joined the tour to try to work out what happened to her brother who seems to have vanished since he signed up. Alice takes Ruby under her wing and a rather interesting friendship forms. Ruby soon learns that there is also another reason why Alice has decided to go on the trip…
… A strange woman and her son check in to the same hotel as Ruby and Alice; Martha and Otto appear to be uncomfortable and acting in a bizarre way which draws attention to them.
As the three women try to find out answers, Liz Trenow creates the most painful, gritty atmosphere of post-war life. The research is incredible, the descriptions of the towns, the horror of the mass graves, the despair and desperation from all different sides is incredibly powerful. It is so hard to imagine just how horrific this time was yet Liz cleverly creates this novel which hits you with the reality of it.
This book really opened my eyes to things I hadn’t even thought about before and made me think about so many things- just how those who were left behind had to learn to cope, how the tourism was seen as controversial but what would I have done? How at the end of the day what was the point in the war and all those lost lives when everyone, deep down, is essentially human and full of emotions too. Should the German graves be treated differently to the other graves?
This is such an incredible novel that really drew me in. The atmosphere and scenes are amazingly created and the characters completely believable and well crafted. I felt truly immersed in this novel and didn’t want for it to end. There is a lot of emotion, shock, history, atmosphere and moral questioning within this novel which I thoroughly enjoyed. I adored this book.