I’ve always been a passionate student of history (and several members of my family are HUGE history buffs); but I don’t often read historical fiction. In recent years, I’ve started reading more of them, particularly if they’re either about events that remain largely unknown (ie. Farewell to Manzanar, which is about Japanese internment camps in the US or Before We Were Yours, about the Tennessee Children’s Home scandal) or about seasons of history that I’m particularly interested in (ie. The Tattooist of Auschwitz, about the Holocaust). I mention these other titles to give reference for the type of book that I’ll be reviewing today, as it deals with difficult topics that surrounded the events of World War I. These include the violence of war, dealing with grief, abortion, and PTSD. While I feel that the author did an excellent job of dealing with these events in both a realistic and tasteful manner, I wanted to be honest about some of the more difficult, and heartbreaking, things that you may encounter as you read.
A Generation of Poppies is a novel based on the time period leading up to, during, and following World War I. As the author alludes to in her notes following the book, there are far more books, fiction in particular, that have been published regarding World War II. However, World War I was a period of history that deserves attention as well. Not only was the world wrapped up in a war that touched so many lives, but it also played out alongside important events such as the women’s suffrage movement and the Spanish Flu epidemic. Hillbom does an amazing job of interweaving all these major events into one believable storyline that focuses on the viewpoint of two individuals: Rosalie and Charles. Rosalie is a volunteer nurse from England that works at several military hospitals throughout the warfront. Charles is a reluctant recruit from France, forced to serve as an officer on the front lines.
Although there are a lot of names to keep track of, as both Charles and Rosalie have various friends that enter and exit the narrative, overall the story was incredibly engaging throughout. Their romance was also done incredibly well, and I felt the author handled their relationship delicately without letting it overwhelm the main message of the story: that war is not beautiful, and it has far-flung consequences of all kinds. Her writing style was easy to read, even when it was heavy with historical information, and I learned things I’d never known about events that went on during the war.
I would highly recommend if you’re looking for a new historical fiction that will give you all the feels and also bring you to tears. The author actually gave me a copy of this book for free, and I’m so pleased that she did! 5 out of 5 stars from me.
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