Motherland: A Novel

Motherland: A Novel

4.5 2
by William Nicholson
     
 

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From an Academy Award–nominated screenwriter, an epic novel of love and loss and the long shadows war leaves behind.

Summer, 1942. Kitty, an army driver stationed in Sussex, meets Ed, a Royal Marine commando, and Larry, a liaison officer with Combined Ops. She falls instantly in love with Ed, who falls in love with her. So does Larry. Both men goSee more details below

Overview

From an Academy Award–nominated screenwriter, an epic novel of love and loss and the long shadows war leaves behind.

Summer, 1942. Kitty, an army driver stationed in Sussex, meets Ed, a Royal Marine commando, and Larry, a liaison officer with Combined Ops. She falls instantly in love with Ed, who falls in love with her. So does Larry. Both men go off to war, and Ed wins the highest military honor for his bravery. But sometimes heroes don’t make the best husbands.

Motherland follows Kitty, Ed, and Larry from wartime England and the brutally tragic Dieppe raid to Nazi-occupied France, India after the war, and Jamaica before independence. Against this ever-changing backdrop—as they witness history being made and participate in the smaller dramas of romance, friendship, and parenthood—these three friends make choices that will determine the challenges and triumphs of their lives. But the insistent current running through all they experience is the unacknowledged tension of the love triangle that binds them together and must somehow be resolved.

Written by an award-winning screenwriter whose novels have earned extraordinary critical praise, Motherland is a compelling, page-turning narrative brimming with stunning war scenes, pageantry, politics, and questions about faith and art, as well as quiet, intimate moments of passion, doubt, and longing. Above all, it is a great love story about three people struggling to find happiness and meaning amid war and its aftermath.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Stationed in Sussex during World War II, Kitty Teale loves her post as an army driver. Well versed in the art of flirting, Kitty thrives at keeping her would-be suitors at arm's length. But when she meets Ed Avenell, a Royal Marine commando, and Larry, a liaison officer, she falls headfirst in love with one and strikes up an instant friendship with the other. While Ed may have gotten the girl, though, there is darkness within him that he struggles to keep at bay. Larry also loves Kitty, but the value he places on his friendships with Ed and Kitty lead him halfway around the world and back to find a love all his own. Spanning almost a decade, this novel chronicles the lives of its three main characters following their first meeting, and while the only possible ending becomes clear just over halfway through the story, the journey to realization is no less interesting. VERDICT Nicholson, a British screenwriter (Gladiator; Shadowlands), playwright, and novelist (I Could Love You), pays careful attention to historical details. He develops central characters that stir our emotions and keep us engaged even when the touted happy ending seems unlikely. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 10/22/12.]—Natasha Grant, New York
Publishers Weekly
Screenwriter Nicholson returns to the novel with a WWII love story that evolves into a study of postwar marital malaise, culminating in a bittersweet resolution. Marine commando Ed Avenell and liaison officer Larry Cornford, friends stationed in Sussex in 1942, both fall for army driver Kitty Teale. Choosing charm over humility, Kitty marries Ed just before the men head to France, where Ed is taken prisoner—earning him a Victoria Cross—while Larry, showing less bravura, returns safely to visit Kitty and baby daughter Pamela. At war’s end Ed returns a troubled man, struggling with inner demons as Kitty and Larry bond. Neither Larry’s affair with an artists’ model, his stint with Mountbatten in India, or his own dysfunctional marriage disrupts their friendship. Years pass before a sentimental journey to where it all began clarifies past mistakes and offers some a second chance. Pamela (mother of Guy Caulder and grandmother of Alice Dickinson from The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life) narrates from the present, forming the framework in which Nicholson develops his complex characters. Depictions of postwar France, pre-independence India, and battlefield chaos add scope to Nicholson’s ruminations on love, faith, decency, the choices ordinary people make, and how they cope with the consequences. Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander Associates. (Apr.)
Booklist
"A sweeping historical epic...won't disappoint fans of classic Hollywood-style storytelling that grapples with life's big-ticket issues...infused with realistic dialogue and fastidious attention to historical detail... will make true romantics swoon."
author of East of the Sun and Jasmine Nights - Julia Gregson
“A terrific book with a wonderful understanding of life in pre-war and post-war Britain. The description of the abortive Dieppe landings are extraordinary. The post-war lives of those who survived are particularly well drawn, the characters rich and varied. And there are always surprises. It reminds me of the first time I read Brideshead Revisited. A total triumph.”
author of the Cazalet Chronicle - Elizabeth Jane Howard

"Nicholson’s great strength lies in his ability to make the reader understand and care about his characters; he loves them and we get to love them too. He is particularly concerned with morality and love, subjects that have inspired all great novelists. It is a joy to find a contemporary writer passionately engaged with both. This is a novel worth reading more than once."
The Spectator
“Nicholson manages not to write a single clichéd sentence…extremely powerful.”
Red Online
"Masterful, engaging and romantic...his forte is in describing the nuances and complications of relationships and this talent really shines in Motherland. His simple, intense style...is one to get lost in."
The Daily Mail
"Intelligently scrumptious."
The Guardian - Clare Clark
"A profound and moving novel; tender and compassionate...there is always, in Nicholson and his characters, however desperate and lost, the small fierce spark of humanity. His great triumph is in creating a love triangle in which we, as much as the characters themselves, can see no resolution, because it is unbearable to imagine any of them hurt."
From the Publisher
“A terrific book with a wonderful understanding of life in pre-war and post-war Britain. The description of the abortive Dieppe landings are extraordinary. The post-war lives of those who survived are particularly well drawn, the characters rich and varied. And there are always surprises. It reminds me of the first time I read Brideshead Revisited. A total triumph.”

"Nicholson’s great strength lies in his ability to make the reader understand and care about his characters; he loves them and we get to love them too. He is particularly concerned with morality and love, subjects that have inspired all great novelists. It is a joy to find a contemporary writer passionately engaged with both. This is a novel worth reading more than once."

"A wartime love story in the tradition of Atonement...affecting."

"A sweeping historical epic...won't disappoint fans of classic Hollywood-style storytelling that grapples with life's big-ticket issues...infused with realistic dialogue and fastidious attention to historical detail... will make true romantics swoon."

"Nicholson pays careful attention to historical details. He develops central characters that stir our emotions and keep us engaged...."

“Depictions of postwar France, pre-independence India, and battlefield chaos add scope to Nicholson’s ruminations on love, faith, decency, the choices ordinary people make, and how they cope with the consequences.”

"Intelligently scrumptious."

“Nicholson manages not to write a single clichéd sentence…extremely powerful.”

"Masterful, engaging and romantic...his forte is in describing the nuances and complications of relationships and this talent really shines in Motherland. His simple, intense style...is one to get lost in."

"A profound and moving novel; tender and compassionate...there is always, in Nicholson and his characters, however desperate and lost, the small fierce spark of humanity. His great triumph is in creating a love triangle in which we, as much as the characters themselves, can see no resolution, because it is unbearable to imagine any of them hurt."

Kirkus Reviews
A wartime love story in the tradition of Atonement--and perhaps The Winds of War, and perhaps Gone with the Wind.... The opening pages of screenwriter (Gladiator, Shadowlands) and novelist (I Could Love You, 2011, etc.) Nicholson's modestly pitched saga frame the problem beautifully: A granddaughter does not know her grandmother, just as her mother does not know her own grandmother--and the members of the Greatest Generation, whose story this is, scarcely know themselves. In the early years of World War II, Kitty Teale, who simply adores driving, rushes off to volunteer for service as an ambulance driver. She is class conscious, but less so than her hoity-toity pal Louisa, who grumbles assonantly, "I don't mind being bossed about by lesbians in trilbies...so long as they're my own class." Class enters into things when those wary winds buffet Kitty into the arms of Royal Marine commando Ed--though, to complicate matters, fellow warrior Larry, no slouch himself, emerges as a good candidate for a spirited snogging. What's a girl to do? Well, when Ed returns from the front a much decorated hero, the decision seems fixed--save that, in postwar India (one wants to pronounce it In-juh, of course), and in a milieu where Ed is hell-bent on drinking his memories of battle away, Larry's still ripe to enact his realization that "time is so short, death comes so soon....We must love each other." Or, to echo Auden, die--and there's some of that, too. The best moments of this well-written if predictable story come when Ed and Larry are interacting: Their relationship is fraught, intimate, wary ("Time to beat a retreat," says Ed, meaningfully. "Back to the boats and sail away.") and affecting. The rest of the story is well-told, though we've seen most of it before: Just add gin to your favorite wartime romance and stir.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781451687149
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
04/09/2013
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
61,850
File size:
3 MB

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What People are saying about this

Elizabeth Jane Howard
"Nicholson’s great strength lies in his ability to make the reader understand and care about his characters; he loves them and we get to love them too. He is particularly concerned with morality and love, subjects that have inspired all great novelists. It is a joy to find a contemporary writer passionately engaged with both. This is a novel worth reading more than once.
Julia Gregson
“A terrific book with a wonderful understanding of life in pre-war and post-war Britain. The description of the abortive Dieppe landings are extraordinary. The post-war lives of those who survived are particularly well drawn, the characters rich and varied. And there are always surprises. It reminds me of the first time I read Brideshead Revisited. A total triumph.”

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