The Heroes' Welcome is the incandescent sequel to the best-selling R&J pick My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You. Its evocation of a time deeply wounded by the pain of WWI will capture and beguile listeners fresh to Louisa Young's wonderful writing and those previously enthralled by the stories of Nadine and Riley, Rose, Peter, and Julia.
It's 1919, and Britain is realising that it is no longer at war. Now, Nadine and Riley, Rose, and Peter and Julia must try to regain a sense of normality. But long shadows cast by the war dim the potential joys of peacetime, and matters of the heart prove arduous and bewildering.
Normality doesn't seem to exist the way it did, and there is no going back to anything. What must give for happiness to stand a chance? For those who fought, those who healed, and those left behind, 1919 is a year freighted with perilous beginnings, unavoidable realities, and gleams of indestructible hope.
Praise for My Dear I Wanted to Tell You>:
"This novel is a triumph." (Elizabeth Jane Howard)
"Every once in a while comes a novel that generates its own success, simply by being loved." (The Times)
"Birdsong for the new millennium." (Tatler)
"Powerful, sometimes shocking, boldly conceived, it fixes on war's lingering trauma to show how people adapt - or not - and is irradiated by anger and pity." (The Sunday Times)
"[A] tender, elegiac novel. Others have been here before, of course, from Sebastian Faulks to Pat Barker, but Young belongs in their company." (Mail on Sunday)
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Welcome return of these characters
Dan Stevens' superb narration: he picks up where he left off in 'My Dear...', not a missed step in transition, and it made the experience of being in the company of these rounded characters once again all the more pleasurable.
I love Louisa Young's writing, and the way she gets under the skin of all her characters, so you feel you know them as well as you can ever hope to know yourself... She's unafraid to expose their flaws, and their obliviousness to their own flaws, except when it suits them, and their unwillingness to fix themselves, or to try to be better, or to become exhausted by the attempt (how apt is that to your own experience?!) - all emotion and constraint is here.
His pace is deliberate, his intonation sincere, he takes care over the language and passion into the dialogue (his Riley is consistent and convincing): it's perfectly judged and I sometimes wish he narrated all audiobooks (but especially the third in this series, Devotion, because Eve Karpf isn't half so good and I'm listening to it now, finding myself missing Stevens' version of these characters I've come to know well)!
The struggles of these characters moves me, and at times to tears - Peter's difficulties here were particularly acute and sensitively portrayed - and I found Julia especially interesting in the first novel, so her experiences here were more than a little wince-inducing. I'm so glad there is this follow-up, as the characters are deeply memorable and the story explores the effects of war and personal trauma that don't see the light of day very often.
Inspires me to read Homer, and to learn more about Classical Greek literature, which try as I might (I have the Odyssey in paperback with helpful encyclopaedic footnotes...) I've never found the motivation to start before!
Not as good as the first volume
This book feels like the middle book of a trilogy. It is not as good as the first volume and the story line is rather thin. You feel there is another book coming and if that is the case I would definitely continue with the story. The main theme is shell shock which is interesting, but lacks the emotional intensity of the first volume and is just not quite so interesting about WWI medical practices.
Probably the discussions of the effect of shell shock on the mind.
I have listened to My Dear I Wanted to Tell You among others and really you cannot fault Dan Stevens as a reader. He is excellent.
The emotion was nothing like as intense as in the first volume, but there are some powerful passages.
One sort of wondered when the story was going to start - it's a bit unstructured.