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Book Review: "In Memoriam" by Alice Winn

2.5/5 - a good attempt, but simply not good enough...

By Annie KapurPublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 3 min read
From: Amazon

“Gaunt was woven into everything he read, saw, wrote, did, dreamt. Every poem had been written about him, every song composed for him, and Ellwood could not scrape his mind clear of him no matter how he tried.”

- In Memoriam by Alice Winn

I didn't think I was going to read this book as I had just recently finished one similar called The World and All That it Holds. Though The World and All That it Holds is set in different timelines, it still has its beginnings in World War One. And even though I know that this book is supposed to be a great debut, it simply felt a bit too much like a debut for me. With its clichéd characters very clearly based on Sassoon and Graves, this book has its moments of glory but eventually falls into sloppy fanfiction. I think that the overwhelming advantage of this book is the concept, the writing however lets it down quite badly.

At a boarding school in the English Countryside, Ellwood, Gaunt and friends are looking at the war from a fairly comfortable position. Half-German Gaunt is pressed by his mother to enlist as a soldier early because of his German uncle being accused of spying - stating that it will show that their family is loyal to England. Nervously, Gaunt accepts and goes off to war, leaving Ellwood behind. As the war rages and boys they know begin to feature on lists of the dead published in their school newspaper - Ellwood knows that he must enlist, much to the dismay of his mother.

In the midst of this is an unrequited secret love between some of the boys, strongest between Ellwood and Gaunt who, do not know about the other's love for them. The harrowing images of the war include things like a guy clawing at his own throat during a gas attack and a man splattered in brain tissue. One of the things Alice Winn does well is writing those graphic war images that take me back to school when I would get repulsed by reading the poetry of Wilfred Owen - actually thinking about the fact that those things happened is something else. Obviously, one of the key images is the gas attack in both cases, horrifying as it is - I found it upsetting in both Alice Winn's novel and Wilfred Owen's poem.

From: GoodReads

However, the cliché romance is something I could have done without. In The World and All That it Holds there is something really visceral and haunting about the romance between the two men, whereas I feel like in this novel it more or less resembles wattpad fanfiction. It doesn't feel realistic and obviously, for the time, doesn't feel dangerous enough. There is not enough love as there are sexual relations and honestly, it fell a bit flat after a while, becoming dry and boring. It is definitely the lesser of the two novels on that front. Either write it well or don't writ it at all.

The beginning and the end of the novel are pretty good, but there are parts in the middle that definitely make it feel like a debut. Someone has not gone through and edited down repetitions and dragged out scenes for no reason. Though it is a good attempt at atmosphere, I found it to be a bit on the tiresome side. It definitely needed more action to do with the war and less atmosphere of romance and airiness. These two things, though they can be done well together, were not done well together here.

All in all, this is a great concept for a novel and one that appears again and again in fiction everywhere. But I think that this was probably the wrong topic for this particular author to do. I believe that there should have been far more focus on the actual war rather than trying to coat everything with this idealistic romance at a time when even an inkling of this would be punished by imprisonment. There is no real danger felt there and I think that is deleting a very important part of history - especially a difference between then and now in which these people fought for something much bigger than themselves.


About the Creator

Annie Kapur

200K+ Reads on Vocal.

Secondary English Teacher & Lecturer

🎓Literature & Writing (B.A)

🎓Film & Writing (M.A)

🎓Secondary English Education (PgDipEd) (QTS)

📍Birmingham, UK

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    Annie KapurWritten by Annie Kapur

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