My Dear I Wanted to Tell You, by Louisa Young, is an example of how not only the history of our country, but also the personal history of an author’s relations, can be turned into a successful piece of contemporary fiction.

The story was initially inspired by the work of Young’s grandmother in a First World War hospital. The title is derived from an automated note that was sent to women back home, informing them of which hospital their husbands or relations were being treated in and why. It was a simple way of stating the soldier’s condition without emotion, which is the premise for Young’s bleak and lonely portrayal of both men and women in wartime.

There are times when the story seems predictable…

Despite the well developed storyline, Young’s take on the mindset of the World War I soldier does at times seem doubtful within her contemporary writing style. It feels as if the descriptions of the unrequited loves and family dynamics are more interesting than the effect of the war context.

There are times when the story seems predictable, telling the tale of a man losing his life and mind through World War I. It is the back-story that keeps it from being just another woeful tale of war. The refreshing account of Riley Purefoy’s younger life as a lower-class child struggling through class, maturity, war and love, gives the novel the depth it needs, showing how people’s priorities, even when in a war, can be mixed and confused when pining for your soulmate.

…unsettled lovers in the no-man’s land of an empty home…

The mixture of characters from women bereft of their men; unsettled lovers in the no-man’s land of an empty home; men at a loss with their fate and sexuality, to soldiers battling the Hun, their minds and their own innocences, gives this novel a further dimension and keeps it from being too reliant on its position in history.

My Dear I Wanted to Tell You is not for anyone who is looking for a love story and a war novel, but more for fans of against-all-odds romances who don’t mind a little historic contextualisation.

My Dear I Wanted to Tell You is published by HarperCollins and is currently available for £8.44

2 ½ stars 

Image courtesy of Louisa Young


About The Author

Josh is an English and Creative Writing graduate from Royal Holloway University of London. He writes plays, presents radio, draws comics and listens to folk music.

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