Book: Lovely War
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5 Stars
This book has definitely earned a place at the top of my all time favorite reads. I appreciated every little aspect and piece of this story and can’t think of any way I would change it. Julie Berry outdoes herself with this one and I can’t sing its praises enough.
First up, before I get into my rating more, here’s the Goodreads summary:
It’s 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She’s a shy and talented pianist; he’s a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it’s immediate and deep–and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.
Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who’s played Carnegie Hall, he’s a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that’s before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who’s already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.
Thirty years after these four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.
Okay, now to get into my rating. Obviously I adored this book and the story so much, but let me take a minute to get into the why of that.
In my Goodreads review, one of the things that I talked about loving was the addition of mythology and gods to this book. On its own, it would be a splendid book, but by adding the gods (Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Ares, Apollo and Hades) as voices to the book and the story it gives it a whole new meaning. It takes this tale of love and war and gives the gods a say in it and how they designed it. It made the story not only have more depth but also made you keep reading in wonder of what these gods might do next.
Another thing I touched on in my Goodreads review was the role of race and segregation and the treatment of black people/soldiers in this book. Too often we talk about just civil rights or the Civil War and leave out everything in between (or before). I thought it was so important that Julie Berry took time in this book to dive head first into the racial injustice not only in the country but also in the army at this time. My heart broke for these characters as they dealt with this injustice, but it also opened my eyes to things I never knew and am so glad I do now.
One thing that I didn’t get into on Goodreads, in hopes to keep it a more brief review, was the love stories in this book. That’s right, I said stories, plural. In truth there are 3 main love stories in this book, though one does not become apparent until the end. These stories swirl and change and go through their own ups and downs. They provide the reader with a glimpse into love in the time of war. They show a hope that can only be described as true love. Though the romance between Hazel & James is arguably the crown jewel of love stories, Colette and Aubrey’s story is one of overcoming race and really the odds. If you love stories of true love and hope, these are some for the ages.
The final thing that I want to leave here is the amount of research and true facts that go in this book. A huge chunk of the end of the book is dedicated to these true characters and sources used throughout the book. I always really appreciate when historical fiction authors take time at the end or beginning of their books to touch on the true and historical aspects of their books.
Overall, this book is an easy 5 star rating and if I could rate it higher I would. If you love historical fiction or classic tales of love, this book is most definitely for you!