Thursday, January 13, 2011

Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

Source: Librivox (zipped mp3s)
Length: 2 hr, 47 minutes
Reader: Elizabeth Klett

The book: During World War I, Captain Chris Baldry's homecoming is eagerly awaited by his wife Kitty and his cousin Jenny. A woman shows up at their door to tell them that Chris has returned, suffering from amnesia, and now he thinks that it is 1901. This woman, Margaret Grey, was engaged to him then and he thinks he is still in love with her. He has no memory of the war or of his wife.

The amnesia works as both a plot point and a symbol for the desire for the world to go back to the way it was before the war. I was less than impressed with the accuracy of the soldier's illness. Although psychogenic amnesia does sometimes happen following traumatic events, it does not usually include amnesia of events before the trauma, as far as I know. I liked the book fairly well as a work of fiction, but I wished that West would have accurately portrayed the more common experiences of post-traumatic stress disorder, as Dorothy Sayers does in her books.

Rating: 7/10

The reader: Elizabeth Klett is a marvelous reader, one of the LibriVox'ers who could be a professional reader. Her voice during the Librivox disclaimer and chapter headings is a standard American accent, but when she narrates the book, told from the perspective of Chris's cousin Jenny, her voice transforms into a beautiful upper-class English accent. She brings this narration alive with the skill of an actor, making Jenny a distinct and deep character.  I couldn't imagine any other recording of this book, at any price.

(This review was entered for a Book Review Wednesday contest at Cym Lowell's blog)


hopeinbrazil said...

This author has been on my radar. Thanks for pointing this librivox version out.

Julie @ Knitting and Sundries said...

Thanks for the review. The storyline sounds interesting - I think I will put this on my list!

Cym Lowell said...

I am not audio book listener but I love your reviews!! I also appreciate you linking them up to the party. You're awesome!

Have a great week and I hope to see you next week. Are you on Facebook or Twitter?