Published by Penguin on 4. February, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Greek & Roman, Romance, Historical, War & Military
Read the critical darling that Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network, called "easily one of the best novels I have read all year!" A sweeping, multi-layered romance set in the perilous days of World Wars I and II, where gods hold the fates--and the hearts--of four mortals in their hands.
They are Hazel, James, Aubrey, and Colette. A classical pianist from London, a British would-be architect turned soldier, a Harlem-born ragtime genius in the U.S. Army, and a Belgian orphan with a gorgeous voice and a devastating past. Their story, as told by the goddess Aphrodite, who must spin the tale or face judgment on Mount Olympus, is filled with hope and heartbreak, prejudice and passion, and reveals that, though War is a formidable force, it's no match for the transcendent power of Love.
Author Julie Berry's critically acclaimed writing has been called "haunting and unforgettable" by New York Times bestselling author of Salt to the Sea Ruta Sepetys and "utterly original and instantly engrossing" by Publishers Weekly.
I’ll admit that this was partially a cover buy for me, although it was a cover buy because it was so obviously historical and the pink coat screamed romance so that’s all it takes to draw me in sometimes. I bought this one around the same time that I bought and read another novel that I didn’t really get on with. Because of that, it took me a lot longer to get around to reading this one than it should have.
I would say that this was everything that I wanted the other book to be, but that’s not really fair. Although they’re both set during wartime and during world wars. This one is set during World War I and features description (not overly graphic, but it is descriptions of war none the less) of trench warfare and the impact it had on both mind and body.
It also shows the segregation and treatment that the black military units sent to Europe (and elsewhere, but this takes place in Europe) faced along with how, despite being far from home and at war, they were not necessarily safe with their own countrymen. I can’t really speak to how the representation was handled by the author, but from her notes at the end it’s clear she’s done research on the subject, but I can’t speak to anything beyond that.
However, before you go thinking that this is a book featuring nothing but doom and gloom, this is not a Greek tragedy despite featuring several Greek Gods who help tell the tale of Hazel, Colette, Aubrey and James (and others). This is a tale mainly told by Aphrodite and they say love conquers all…
There were several scenes in this that made me emotional and not all of them featured our main characters. Every single character in this book from the main characters, the Greek Gods telling the tale to the smaller side characters felt real, fleshed out and vulnerable. It hurt when they hurt and I found myself rooting for all of them.
The blurb hints at two couples appearing in this novel, but it’s technically three although it’s best discovered by reading I think.
Because the narrative changes between the Gods as they tell the tale, the phase feels good. Not too fast, but not so slow that it feels like a drag either. Also, because we are dealing with Gods and they are omniscient, we’re allowed inside the minds and hearts of the characters which helps flesh them out.
The writing is descriptive without feeling flowery or like you’re reading paragraphs of description. You get a sense of where you are, how it looks, feels and smells, without being so bogged down in it that it feels like nothing is happening.
In short, I loved every moment of this book. It actually reminded me a little of the way A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson felt when I read in several years ago. They don’t really have anything in common in terms of plot, though they are both set in the past, A Countess Below Stairs features a Russian Countess who had to flee the Russian Revolution. However something about the feel of Lovely War reminded me of how it felt to read Ibbotson’s novel.
If you enjoy historical novels (because although it features some fantasy elements, it is at its core an historical novel) with a bit of a twist sprinkled with romance, then I think you might really enjoy Lovely War.