The Soldier's Return

Overview

"In the spring of 1946, ex-corporal Sam Richardson returns home from the "forgotten war" in Burma to his hometown of Wigton in Cumbria, England, to the joyful relief of his young wife, Ellen. He finds a town in which, seemingly, little has changed: the same twisting alleys, weavers' cottages, and medieval archways; and the same lack of prospects for an uneducated, working-class man like himself." Sam, however, has changed. The war has not only left him with traumatic memories, which he tries to suppress, but also given him greater self-confidence ...
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The Soldier's Return

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Overview

"In the spring of 1946, ex-corporal Sam Richardson returns home from the "forgotten war" in Burma to his hometown of Wigton in Cumbria, England, to the joyful relief of his young wife, Ellen. He finds a town in which, seemingly, little has changed: the same twisting alleys, weavers' cottages, and medieval archways; and the same lack of prospects for an uneducated, working-class man like himself." Sam, however, has changed. The war has not only left him with traumatic memories, which he tries to suppress, but also given him greater self-confidence and broadened his horizons. From her wartime jobs, Ellen, too, has gained a sense of independence she does not want to give up. And then there's six year old Joe, a baby when Sam volunteered, who can scarcely remember his father. As all three strive to adjust, the bonds of love and loyalty become stretched to the breaking point.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Right from the start, when the train carrying British soldier Sam Richardson home to Wigton after his service in the Burma campaign breaks down two miles from town and he and his army comrades have to walk home, it is clear we are in the hands of a compassionate, clear-sighted writer. Braggs work has been compared to that of Hardy and D.H. Lawrence, not without some justice. His smalltown people are closely and warmly observed, but without a shred of sentimentality, and although this story is familiar"a man home from a dehumanizing war finds it hard to readjust"it has seldom been imbued with such rueful humanity. For Sam, England after WWII"and after the sufferings he and his men endured in the frightful jungle campaigns"is stuffy and limiting; soon he starts dreaming of wider horizons. His adored wife, Ellen, however, is happily rooted in the little northern town where she grew up; their small son, Joe, who has hardly known his father, is bewitched but also terrified of him. How the family works out its fate in the shabby postwar years is Braggs story, and he makes of it something at once endearing and heroic. So many scenes"the regimental reunion, Joes efforts to win friends among the tough town kids, a final scene at a railway station as heartrending as the movie Brief Encounter"linger in the mind. The book is a small classic, deeply touching and true. (Aug.) Forecast: Bragg is well known as a broadcaster and successful novelist in Britain, where this was published three years ago. Americans deserve to know Braggs work better, and booksellers can safely recommend this to admirers of classic English literature. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In 1946, Englishman Sam Richardson returns to his wife and young son after fighting in the "Forgotten War" in Burma. Like so many who fought beside him and lived to return, Sam feels suffocated by life in tiny rural Wigton. The men who were left behind ask too many painful questions, and nightmares rob Sam of sleep. Work is scarce and demeaning, and rebuilding his life with his wife, Ellen, and young son, Joe, is fraught with awkwardness, misunderstanding, and frustration. Ellen wants a home with a garden and maybe a second child, and Sam is tempted by the government's offer of relocation to Australia. In the end, readjustment nearly destroys Sam's family. This latest work from Bragg (A Time To Dance; On Giants' Shoulders) is thoughtful, sensitive, and alive to the raw edges of relationships under repair, and he writes with delicacy and remarkable strength about rural England's struggle to return to the security of a past forever changed by the war. This work won the 1999 W.H. Smith Literary Award, and its sequel, Son of War, is already a best seller in England. This is among the best of the many post-World War II novels coming from England, which include Mick Jackson's Five Boys and Andrew Greig's The Clouds Above. Highly recommended for all popular fiction collections. Susan Clifford Braun, Aerospace Corp., El Segundo, CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A quietly evocative account of a soldier's homecoming in northern England, by British novelist Bragg (On Giants' Shoulders, 1999, etc.). When Sam Richardson came back with his regiment from Burma in 1946, there were no parades: The euphoria of victory had subsided pretty quickly the year before, and the folks in his hometown of Wigton were too preoccupied with rationing, unemployment, and the creation of the National Health Service to have time for more war stories. That's just as well for Sam, who had seen some pretty nasty action in a very nasty campaign and just wants to get back to normal life as quickly as he can. But that may not be possible. Sam's wife Ellen became fairly independent during the war, having started a housecleaning business that she doesn't want to give up, and she and Sam and their six-year-old son Joe now have to live with Ellen's Aunt Grace because there's not a house to be had in town for love or money. This is very much a story of England in the 1940s-gray, bleak, and underfed-and the overwhelming sense the author communicates is the claustrophobia that afflicts everyone who could remember the better times of the prewar years that seem to have been lost forever. Eventually, Ellen finds an affordable house that Aunt Grace will help them buy, but Sam finds himself more and more at loose ends, unable to settle for the routines of England. When he is offered an opportunity to emigrate to Australia, he finds the urge almost overwhelming-but Ellen wants none of it. Can Sam, having seen a larger world, settle for the smallness of Wigton? Or can he convince his family to embark on a new life with him? Quite powerful in an understated way: a splendid portrait of a worldon the verge of a new era.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611452730
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing
  • Publication date: 7/1/2003
  • Pages: 358
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Melvyn Bragg is an English broadcaster and the author of more than a dozen novels, including The Cumbrian Trilogy and The Soldier’s Return Quartet, as well as numerous works of nonfiction. The Soldier’s Return won the WH Smith Literary Award as best novel of the year in 2000. In 1998 Bragg was named a life peer.
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