Gifts of War by Mackenzie Ford
During the Christmas Truce of 1914, Hal Montgomery, a British soldier, is given a photo by a German soldier, Wilhelm Wetzlar, and they make a pact. Hal promises to find his enemy’s English girlfriend, Samantha, and let her know her fiancé is alive and thinking of her. Several weeks later, Hal—now injured—is discharged from the army and goes to Stratford on Avon to fulfill his promise. But things take an unexpected turn when he meets the woman in the photo and falls in love with her himself. As their romance blossoms, Sam shares with Hal her most private confidence: Her newborn son is of German lineage, information that threatens her reputation and her job as a schoolteacher. Fearful that he will lose Sam, Hal holds tight to the secret—and the photograph—that brought them together.I started reading this before my surgery and finished it up in the week after it. What's funny is even when I couldn't read in the hospital this book stayed on my mind. I don't read much historical fiction, but what little I have read I have enjoyed and it has made me want to delve into this genre even more.
The scene shifts to London, where Hal becomes involved with military intelligence and is introduced to Sam’s sisters and a different kind of secrecy. Against the broader landscape of England in wartime, Gifts of War captures the era and the fates of men and women caught in the sweep of history. A vivid tale of romance, adventure, and intrigue, the novel is a remarkable narrative that explores what made War World I so tragic, so revolutionary, and so exciting. It also announces a gifted new novelist.
As far as history is concerned I know very little except the highlights after 1900 - I blame this on my schooling and also on my lack of interest. Now I enjoy reading about historical time frames even in fiction because there is some hint of fact in the story and I learn something.
Gifts of War taught me a lot - it only goes into the battlefields of WWI in small doses, but it introduced me to the social impacts of WWI especially in London. As I followed Hal, Sam and Sam's son, I learned about the people during the war and how everyday life was affected. I learned about the spy-type efforts that went on and the anti-German sentiment that was rampant. It taught me that there is so much more to war than what I thought.
I thoroughly enjoyed the relationship building between Hal and Sam even though there is a secret between them. Watching these complex characters interact during the war was very interesting. It was hard to get away from the book for any period of time and it never seemed to drag. I enjoyed the aspects of Hal's job and the intrigue there, the people he met and Sam's family. It was all very interesting to watch play out in front of me.
I honestly cannot say enough about this book. It's rich in descriptions, characterization and plot that keeps it moving. I enjoyed it from the first page to the last and the twists and turns along the way.
If you enjoy good historical fiction - pick this one up. If this is a new genre to you - pick this one up - you won't regret it.
On-sale Date: July 7, 2009
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
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