About me
Bookshop

Get new posts by email.

About me

I’ve been reading ‘In Memoriam’ by Alice Winn

I’m not typically drawn to reading fiction set in the First or Second World War. This may seem odd and limiting, but I often feel uncomfortable about using such horrific events as a backdrop for fiction. This discomfort distracts me from the story, leading me to dark reflections on human nature—something I usually prefer to avoid.

This book was an exception. I avoided reading it for all of the above reasons, but eventually the weight of the number of recommendations wore me down. It was Tom Rowley and Amy Strong’s recommendation that finally tipped the balance. And, my goodness, I’m glad it did. I was interested that Amy said exactly the same as me about generally avoiding books set during the war.

This was an outstanding novel—and it’s a debut.

It begins at Preshute, a posh English public school. The novel focuses on two of the boys at this school—Sidney Ellwood and Henry Gaunt—who we find on opposing sides of a school debate in 1916 about whether war is a necessary evil. We follow their relationship as they both end up on the Allied frontline, a particularly challenging experience for half-German Gaunt.

Winn examines how war transforms individuals, both subtly and profoundly. She captures the sheer brutality of war at a personal, intimate level, but skilfully mixes in humour and doesn’t shy away from highlighting the absurdity of war.

I would normally also object to the book featuring almost entirely upper-class experiences, but Winn won me over. I appreciated how she showed us the unhinged and unhealthy intertwining of the public school and class systems and the war. In that respect, this book makes an interesting companion to Richard Beard’s Sad Little Men and Sathnam Sanghera’s Empireland.

The ‘historical note’ at the end of the book knocked me for six.

I’d recommend this very highly.

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, What I've Been Reading, .

Recently published posts

Circled / 18 April 2024

‘Fallen leaves’ / 17 April 2024

A manifestly different outcome / 16 April 2024

Forgotten promises / 15 April 2024

Souter Lighthouse / 14 April 2024

Mul’s at the pub / 13 April 2024




Random posts from the archive





The content of this site is copyright protected by a Creative Commons License, with some rights reserved. All trademarks, images and logos remain the property of their respective owners. The accuracy of information on this site is in no way guaranteed. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author. No responsibility can be accepted for any loss or damage caused by reliance on the information provided by this site. Information about cookies and the handling of emails submitted for the 'new posts by email' service can be found in the privacy policy. This site uses affiliate links: if you buy something via a link on this site, I might get a small percentage in commission. Here's hoping.