Gifts of War

Gifts of War

by Mackenzie Ford

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Overview

A vivid tale of romance, adventure, and intrigue, Gifts of War is a remarkable novel that explores what made War World I so tragic and revolutionary.
 
During the Christmas Truce of 1914, Hal Montgomery makes a pact with a German soldier that will change his life—he promises to find his enemy’s English girlfriend, Sam, and let her know her fiancé is alive. But things take an unexpected turn when Hal falls in love with Sam himself. As their romance blossoms, she shares her most private confidence: Her newborn son is of German lineage, information that threatens her reputation and her job as a schoolteacher. Fearful that he will lose Sam, Hal holds tight to the secret that brought them together. But fashioning a family life proves precarious when it is founded on a lie.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307456151
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/13/2010
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 823,553
Product dimensions: 8.06(w) x 5.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

MACKENZIE FORD is the nom de plume of a well-known and respected historian who lives in London, England.

Read an Excerpt

Had it not been for the war, Christmas 1914 would have been straight out of a fairy tale. On 24 December the weather changed abruptly. Along the Front it turned bitterly cold, and the sun that shone all afternoon was too weak to unfreeze the puddles of muddy water that stretched everywhere. Rats and rabbits skittered on the ice, and even the lice—as dug in as we were, in our hair and clothing—seemed lethargic in the cold conditions. It was a better day than most for scratching. That night a thin cloud cover formed but the temperature didn't ease up and a light snow fell, dusting the desolate landscape with a fine layer of crystals. The branches of dead trees—what trees remained standing—became lit in an unnatural way, rather like actors onstage are lit from reflected light below. What was beginning to be familiar terrain suddenly took on a strange, eerie appearance and I remember wondering whether I had, in fact, been shot and killed and was now looking onto the other side—a version of hell that had indeed frozen over.

But no, the eeriness was all too real. That night, as midnight approached, when it was already Christmas by their time, but not with us, we heard movement in the German trenches. Where we were, they were about eighty yards away—no more—so sounds carried. First one, then another small fir tree was hoisted on to the lip of their trenches, lit by candles. One of our sharpshooters fired at one of the trees, and knocked it back down out of sight. This normally would have brought a burst of answering fire from the Germans, but not this time. All was quiet. I barked an order, the sharpshooter made no attempt to fire at the second tree, and we waited. After a delay, there was a small commotion on the German side and another candelit tree was positioned on the lip of their trench. This time we left it alone.

Again we waited. Some minutes afterward we heard the strains of a mouth organ, a trembling, unassertive—even vulnerable—sound, which only just carried across the distance. Its tone was plaintive, melancholy. The musician played a few bars and then voices joined in. The song, which I recognized, was "Die Wacht am Rhein," "The Watch on the Rhine," based on a nineteenth-_century German poem. The clouds had gone by now and the Front had a stark beauty in the clear moonlight. On our side we had all but forgotten the cold.

As the song ended, one of our men shouted, "Guten singing, Fritz!" or something very like it. We all laughed and cheered. After a short silence, the mouth organ started up again, and the Germans gave us "Stille Nacht," "Silent Night," which of course allowed us the opportunity to join in with English words. What a scene! Two groups of men, in ditches eighty yards apart, who hours before had been doing their level best to slaughter one another, singing in unison. Well, almost.

Everyone sensed that this was something historic. It was one of those moments in life when everyone—everyone—raised his game, and no one who was there will ever forget it.


I was twenty-_three then, and a second lieutenant in the Forty-_seventh Gloucestershire Rifles. I was born and grew up in Edgewater, a tiny Cotswold hamlet not far from Stroud. My school career had its moments—mostly wrong moments. I was good at languages but that was about it. I was caught smoking twice and fighting twice. These fights weren't brawls but midnight bare-_knuckle knockout bouts in the school ring—this is how arguments were settled in my school, and highly illegal.

Twenty-_three was a little old for the rank I held, that being mainly due to the fact that I had delayed my degree at Cambridge, to spend two years in—of all places—Germany. My father had been more impressed by my facility with foreign languages than I was myself and at his expense I spent one year in Berlin and another in Munich, brushing up my German (though not only that). The prewar years in Germany, in Munich especially, were the great years of modernism. The birth of abstract painting took place there, the first forays into cabaret; the great novels of Thomas and Heinrich Mann were written in the city. What a time! It was in Munich that I learned to drink and to swear. I dabbled in painting, song writing, and I lost my virginity. I played the tables, lost my allowance, worked as a bouncer in the casino to pay off the debt (the boxing came in handy). I visited hermaphrodite strip shows, learned to nurse a drink for hours on end in all-_night piano bars, and took part in everything the new century had to offer. I never knew whether this is what my father had intended for me, but I loved most of my time in Germany and silently thanked him all the same.

So I didn't go up to Cambridge until I was twenty and therefore didn't come down until May 1914, just before I turned twenty-_three. I'd been working in publishing in London for all of six weeks when war broke out.

Despite my Munich-inspired sophistication, my familiarity with abstract art, continental women, foreign food, and fashion, like so many others I didn't see the Great War coming. And, like so many others, I volunteered immediately. My father was half-pleased. He was always a rather distant man, whom I respected rather than loved. We never really talked about it, but I think he understood the danger more than I did. I suspect he thought that I would get a better—and maybe safer—commission if I volunteered early. He thought my German would help to get me a billet in intelligence, away from the front line. He was wrong: what was most wanted in the early days was infantry, fighting men—or, as the skeptics in the newspapers insisted, "cannon fodder."

My mother was against the war from the very beginning and didn't want me to have any part of it. She would, I think, have even been prepared for me to be a conscientious objector. My mother was a ferocious figure of respect, too, rather than love. I don't want to give the impression that my parents were cold people—they weren't—but the distance they kept was their way of allowing my sister and me to develop our own personalities. Anyway, my mother distrusted authority—any authority. She had no belief in God, loathed the church, and thought the army High Command little better than a bunch of brutish, emotionally stunted pigs, as intellectually vapid as a flock of geese (her very words). Men, she said contemptuously to anyone who would listen, make mistakes in life that women would never contemplate. When I left the house to join up she kissed me on the cheek but said nothing, not even "Good luck" or "Good-_bye."

My sister, Isobel, was different again. Two years younger than me, Izzy was the archetypal younger sister (or so I thought then), adoring of her elder brother, looking up to him, taking his lead in everything. I didn't ask for it; she just grew up with her attitude without thinking. For me it was as much a burden as it was a pleasure. And it made me underestimate her.

I obtained a commission in the Forty-_seventh Gloucestershire Rifles, based at Tetbury. As a second lieutenant—the lowest commissioned rank—I did a month's officer training, and just three weeks basic training. There's not much to say about Tetbury but, about half_way through the course, we got a weekend pass and several of us took the train down to Bristol. Bristol was to play a walk-_on part in my story in a number of ways, and the first time was that weekend.

I traveled with a couple of other second lieutenants; we had been primed by the adjutant on the general staff not to miss a certain "establishment" (as he put it) near the docks, called the Baltic Wharf, and to use his name. Not to mince words, the establishment, while a perfectly serviceable pub on the ground floor, turned out to be a brothel on the floor above. All was revealed when one of us, in ordering some drinks, mentioned the adjutant's name. Apparently, the owner of the Baltic Wharf had been a company sergeant major earlier on in his life, and still had a soft spot for khaki. None of us knew whether we would be allowed out of the camp again before our training was completed, and it didn't take a genius to see that, once we were in France, or Flanders, or wherever we were going, women would not be very high on the army's list of priorities. Add to that the fact that each of us had had no chance to spend our pay for several weeks, and the Baltic Wharf began to seem like a little splash of color in a very gray-and-khaki world.

I remember that the girl was called Crimson—not her real name, obviously—and that she was from Halifax in Nova Scotia. She had lived in Bristol for some months, having been smuggled aboard a ship in her hometown in Canada to service the crew, then been too frightened to sail home, because war had broken out and the North Atlantic had suddenly become very dangerous.

The Wharf was a very civilized place for a brothel (at least, I imagine it was; I am not too qualified to speak, Munich and Bristol being my only experiences in that direction). Besides a number of bedrooms on the first floor, the Wharf had a sitting room, a place where you could relax, put your feet up, have a smoke and a drink, read the newspapers. It was quite clever in its way. The idea was not to rush the men away, once the main business was finished, so to speak, but to persuade them to linger, perhaps try another girl after a suitable break. Anyway, I was relaxing in the room, alone with a drink and a cigarette, waiting for the others I had traveled down with and leafing through that day's Morning Post, when another man joined me. He nodded, poured himself a drink, and began to light a cigarette.

I was a bit preoccupied, to tell the truth. There was a piece in the paper about some of our ships being sunk off Ireland. Crimson wouldn't be going home yet awhile.

Just then we heard a commotion below, and raised voices. A look of fear crossed the other man's face and he rushed to the door. He stuck his head out, left it there for a moment, then slammed the door shut.

"Jesus!" he growled.

"What is it?" I asked. "Police?"

"No," he breathed, more quietly now. "Worse. Curfew."

"Curfew? It's not late."

"Not that kind of curfew. Enlisted men aren't allowed by the harbor. Officers only."

"Oh! Why?"

He shrugged. "I don't make the rules. There've been a couple of fights, a knifing."

"Are you going to run for it?"

He shook his head. "It's all up."

"What's the penalty, if you are caught?"

"The penitentiary, bread and bleeding water. Loss of privileges for weeks, more. I could even lose my stripe."

I got up, went to the door, and looked out. A lieutenant was moving toward the stairs that led to the bedrooms and the room where we were waiting. I closed the door again.

"What's your name?"

"Meadows, sir."

"I mean your first name, and don't call me 'sir.' "

He nodded. "John, sir." He made a face. "John."

I took off my jacket. "You're in luck. I know the officer on the stairs. Only slightly, but he'll recognize me."

"How does that help me?"

I held out my jacket. "My first name's Hal. Put this on and sit over there. Try to look relaxed."

"You want me to impersonate an officer?"

I still held out the jacket. "It's your choice."

He took it.

I lounged in an easy chair, trying to look as relaxed as I could.

Meadows hesitated, looking me straight in the eye. Then he slipped his arms into my jacket and slumped onto the sofa.

The door burst open and a man I knew as Lieutenant Ralph Coleman came in. He stopped, looked at me, nodded, and then looked at Meadows.
Meadows coughed.

"John," I said. "Can you spare another cigarette, please? I think I must have rolled onto mine." I grinned.

He did his best to grin back. "Sure, Hal. Here." And he threw the packet in my direction.

Coleman took a step further into the room. What now? He looked from me to Meadows. "Can I bum one of those cigarettes, do you mind? I've run out."

Meadows nodded and I threw the pack toward Coleman.

He lit the cigarette, dropped the packet on a table, blew smoke into the room. "You lucky bastards," he said softly. "I was told there were some enlisted men in here today, but I've found no one so far." And, as he backed out, he grinned. "Don't tire the girls out, you two. My turn tomorrow."


I never saw Crimson or the Baltic Wharf again. Toward the end of October, we shipped out to France. We arrived at the Front by motorbus. Two thousand of them, driven by reservists, had been sent out by the government. You can imagine the jokes that circulated about arriving at a war by bus. In no time, in November in fact, we saw heavy fighting around and along the Marne River and our strength was reduced so much that the minimum height restriction for recruits was lowered from five foot eight to five foot three. Christ, we were taking a battering. I was directly affected by this because my immediate superior, a full lieutenant who was from Bath and all of six months older than me, was killed in the push on Nieuport and I had to take over.

nd so, with the war only weeks old, my unit was—in terms of personnel—already 80 percent different from the one that had left Tetbury. Almost no one under my command was out of their teens, and some, I am fairly sure, had lied about their age to get into the infantry and should by rights have been at school.

By Christmas Eve we were all, in a way, tired old men. The mud, the danger, the constant bombardment, the sight of so many bodies, and so many bits of bodies, not to mention the blinded, the maimed who had lost arms or legs, the quantities of blood sluicing through the mud, the screams, in the middle of the night, of men who could not be rescued from no-man's-land... this was a very different kind of experience from Munich. We learned to sleep standing up, to ignore cold and damp, to forget about sex, to accept the insect life on our bodies, to stop thinking beyond the next day. In my first letters home I tried to describe the horror, but after a few attempts I gave up. No words could describe what we saw. In the trenches, we stopped talking about it.

Reading Group Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Gifts of War, Mackenzie Ford's vivid tale of romance, adventure, and intrigue.

1. How are Hal and Wilhelm similar/different? Is it reasonable for Sam to be attracted to both men? What does Wilhelm offer Sam that Hal does not and vice versa?

2. Early on in his friendship with Sam, Hal notes that “Sam, I realised, was trying to keep her distance even as I was trying to get closer.” Why doesn't Hal honor the signs he receives from Sam in the beginning of their relationship? Is his persistence a byproduct of blind love, or some other reason? Conversely, does Sam lead Hal on-can it be argued that Sam is using Hal?

3. Explain Sam's wanderlust. What does travel represent for Sam? Is something missing in her life that makes her yearn for travel?

4. How do Hal and Sam's contrary upbringings influence their outlook on love and fidelity?

5. What characteristics do Sam and Izzy share? Who is the better influence on Hal, Sam or Izzy? Why?

6. Hal admits, “I was, so far as I knew, in love with Sam and at that point would probably have concealed any inconvenient fact, told any untruth-any lie-to have ingratiated myself with her. To be honest, I didn't go into the rights and wrongs of it all too much, not then. The war might last a long while.” Do you empathize with Hal's position? Can you rationalize his overt and conscious deception of Sam or do you think that he is acting justly?

7. “Play while you can, play hard, try everything…Playing hard shows you are not defeated, not dead, not even down. It's your duty to play, because tomorrow it might end.” Izzy lives by a “life is too short” motto-how does her attitude influence Hal? Can Hal's pursuit of Sam be seen as a way of living life to the fullest?

8. How do Izzy's experiences in the war differ from Hal's? Whose experiences and contributions seem to have the greatest personal impact?

9. What role do art and culture play in the narrative?

10. How is Izzy's relationship with Alan, a married man, different from Hal's relationship with Sam? Is one relationship more moral or acceptable than the other?

11. What is to be made of Hal's mother's assertion that some people don't need to be loved-that they are much better at loving? Ultimately, do you think that this is true for Hal?

12. Explain the role of risk (in regards to family, romance, and the military) in the novel.

13. How do you view Hal at the end of the novel? Has your opinion of him changed? If so, how?


For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit www.readinggroupcenter.com)

Customer Reviews

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Gifts of War 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Silvia More than 1 year ago
Gifts of War is set during World War I, beginning with the Christmas Truce of 1914, ending in 1919 during the period of the Paris Peace Conference. The story is about war and romance. This is a fast paced read and I didn't want to stop reading. I was only disappointed in the ending of the novel
kren250 More than 1 year ago
Set in the early days of WW I, the book starts off with a favor. It's the famous Christmas Truce of 1914, when soldiers on both sides put down their weapons for a temporary cease-fire. During this time, an English soldier (Hal) meets a German soldier (Wilhelm) and promises to deliver a photograph to Wilhelm's English girlfriend. Just one problem: Hal finds himself falling for the girlfriend himself, when he goes to fulfill his promise. It states on the back blurb of the book that the author is a historian. I think that really comes through in this book, with all the interesting period details. Although I started off thinking the book was going to be just another love story, the book is really much more than that, and has several twists in it that took me by surprise. I enjoyed this book, and will be watching for more historical fiction by this author.
mhleigh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is Christmas on the front lines of World War I. Despite the fact that they are at war, Christmas songs break out and before you know it the soldiers have a temporary truce while they celebrate what they have in common, trade foodstuffs, and share pictures from home. A German officer (Wilhelm) shakes hands with an English officer (Hal) and asks him a large favor - the German has an English love, and he would like his girl friend (Sam) to know he is alive and that he still loves her. Hal agrees to take Sam Wilhelm's picture and deliver the message. However, as soon as Hal lays eyes on Sam he decides to change the plan - Sam is too beautiful not to have for himself. So Hal decides to steal Sam away, she is the one for him. He will build a life and a relationship based on a lie, constantly making up half truths to disguise the truth of why he met Sam in the first place. Unfortunately, the main character of this book is kind of a jerk. A very similar plot could have been written without the "hero" being scummy, but the decision to make him unlikeable makes the romance difficult to read. Hal has personality problems beyond the obvious "woman as pretty property to which I am entitled" mentality. Even at the (cop out) end of the novel, Sam is treated as someone who has no right to make her own, informed, choices. Not cool. The main theme of this book is selfishness. The main characters are all hopelessly self involved. There can be no romance because there doesn't seem to be any actual love - strong feelings, maybe, but when someone is so selfish as to not care about the pain of the one they "love," proving this over and over, what is that? Not a "love story" worth becoming invested in. There are some parts I was interested in, and I read through it pretty quickly, but there was SO much to be desired.
kren250 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in the early days of WW I, the book starts off with a favor. It's the famous Christmas Truce of 1914, when soldiers on both sides put down their weapons for a temporary cease-fire. During this time, an English soldier (Hal) meets a German soldier (Wilhelm) and promises to deliver a photograph to Wilhelm's English girlfriend. Just one problem: Hal finds himself falling for the girlfriend himself, when he goes to fulfill his promise.It states on the back blurb of the book that the author is a historian. I think that really comes through in this book, with all the interesting period details. Although I started off thinking the book was going to be just another love story, the book is really much more than that, and has several twists in it that took me by surprise. I enjoyed this book, and will be watching for more historical fiction by this author.
ForeignCircus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a hard one to review because it is hard to capture exactly what makes it so very good. No question the book is well-written and historically accurate- no a surprise given that the writer is an historian by profession. More importantly, the characters really breathe and live through the pages of the book; once I started reading, I had a hard time putting this book down. Hal and Sam are both sympathetic characters with realistic flaws, working hard to carve out a life in a time of personal and global turmoil.I've never read much fiction centered around WWI, and was impressed by Ford's ability to convey the horror of that war with spare prose that highlighted the futility of trench warfare. The secondary characters of Hal and Sam's family added depth and pathos to the narrative; it is difficult to see imagine the story working as well if any were eliminated. There were no wasted words or scenes; every element advanced the plot in some essential way. No spoilers here, but the denouement was simultaneously satisfying and yet disappointing- truly a fitting end to this tale of romance, deceit, war and loss. Highly recommended!
acook on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is about a situation that develops as a consequence of the Christmas truce during WWI. A British and German soldier meet on the battlefield during the truce, and the German soldier shows the British soldier a picture of his British fiancée. Would the British soldier go to her and tell her that he still loves her and will come to her as soon as this war is over. After being wounded and convalescing, the British solder (Hal) does go to find her, but before he can deliver the message, he decides to have her for himself, even after he discovers she has borne the German soldier¿s son. The rest of the book takes us through WWI, with interesting bits of history, both of the war, and otherwise (the nightclubs in neutral Switzerland, the introduction of the telephone, the first use of blood transfusions), all the while knowing that Hal¿s deception must eventually be revealed.I enjoyed reading the book, but I¿m not sure I¿m satisfied with the ending. It is probably in keeping with Hal¿s character, but I can think of several other possible outcomes I may have preferred. However, if you enjoy this period of history, it is a good read.
Sararush on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿Waiting is not living,¿ says, Sam, girlfriend of our narrator Hal in Mackenzie Ford¿s debut novel Gifts of War. Sam is referring to waiting for the return of her missing paramour, Wilhem¿a German soldier during WWI at a time of obvious anti-German sentiment. Her statement affects Hal differently, for he¿s been waiting for Sam to discover the truth about how he manipulated his way into Sam and her young son Will¿s life. During the Christmas Truce, an actual event in history where the enlisted refused to fight and even fraternized with the enemy to honor the Christmas sprit, Hal met Wilhelm. Wilhelm asked Hal to deliver a message to Sam that he had never stopped thinking about her, but instead Hal meets Sam and falls instantly in love. Hal goes to great lengths to care for and protect Sam and Will. Sam¿s statement also has an impact on the reader because we know this story can not end well for Hal, or the makeshift family he has built. I¿ll admit that the plot begins a little soapy. However the historical details transport the reader into the time period which is engaging enough until the story takes off. A combination spy novel, war story, and romance plot is mostly utilized to explore the ideas of family and love. The Christmas Truce is an interesting crux on which to build the novel allowing Ford to tell a unique and vividly researched story. The ending is surprisingly touching (I cried), and I couldn¿t help but be pleased with the thorough way in which all elements of the story are tied together. A rare novel with heart that I can strongly recommend to anyone, and I for one will keep an eye out for Ford¿s next work.
JGoto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
MacKenzie Ford¿s Gifts of War moved me from the very first page. Ford begins his book in 1941 with The Christmas Truce of World War One. For one day, English and German troops spontaneously lay down arms and join together to sing Christmas carols, shake hands, and agree to have a day of peace in the middle of battlefields all over Europe. It is during this brief encounter between enemies that Englishman Hal Montgomery meets German Wilhelm Wetzlar in the no man¿s land between their trenches. Wilhelm hands a photograph to Hal and asks him to deliver it to his English sweetheart, Sam, to let her know that he is alive, well, and thinking of her. Back in England, Hal meets Sam, discovers that she has borne Wilhelm a son, but falls in love with her himself. He decides not to tell Sam of his encounter with Wilhelm. At this point in the novel I began to fear that the story would become nothing more than an angst-filled romance. Happily, that is not the case. Hal¿s work in British intelligence, letters from the front written by Hal¿s animated sister, and Sam¿s turbulent relationship with her sisters in England make for very interesting reading. The inclusion of new technologies of the day, such as the innovation of blood transfusions and the introduction of air warfare make the narrative convincing. This love story set with the backdrop of war and peopled with credible characters makes Gifts of War hard to put down.
nbmars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This story begins with the Christmas Truce of 1914, when all along the Western Front of WWI, soldiers on both sides laid down their arms and fraternized in No Man¿s Land in between the trenches of the Allies and the Axis.During this truce, Henry ¿Hal¿ Montgomery, a 23-year-old second lieutenant in the British Army, was given a photo by a German soldier of similar rank, Wilhelm Wetzlar. Wilhelm asked Hal to deliver the photo to his fiancé, known as Sam, back in England. He knew his own mail wouldn¿t get through, and wanted Sam to know he was alive and thinking of her. A short time later Hal suffered a groin injury and was permanently removed from the front. He got reassigned to intelligence work coincidentally close to where Sam lived. When Hal went to give the photo to Sam he decided he wanted her for himself; he neglected to tell her he met her fiancé and proceeded to try and take her away from him. He also discovered what Wilhelm himself did not know, that Sam and Wilhelm had a baby. Hal, impotent from his injuries, also wanted this baby for his own. Over the war years, Hal stayed with Sam and convinced her to love him in return. The boy ¿Will¿ came to love Hal as well. But when the war ended, Hal was afraid Wilhelm might still be alive. ...Evaluation: I notice that other reviewers on Library Thing liked this book a great deal. I did not. I loathed Hal for his betrayal, his lust, and his deceitful manipulation. Sam had some despicable traits as well. Ironically, only Wilhelm comes off well in this novel, but he is mostly a missing presence. It was difficult for me to like a book in which I couldn¿t stand the main characters. But I do want to emphasize that I may be alone in this opinion.
reading_crystal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I started reading this before my surgery and finished it up in the week after it. What's funny is even when I couldn't read in the hospital this book stayed on my mind. I don't read much historical fiction, but what little I have read I have enjoyed and it has made me want to delve into this genre even more.As far as history is concerned I know very little except the highlights after 1900 - I blame this on my schooling and also on my lack of interest. Now I enjoy reading about historical time frames even in fiction because there is some hint of fact in the story and I learn something.Gifts of War taught me a lot - it only goes into the battlefields of WWI in small doses, but it introduced me to the social impacts of WWI especially in London. As I followed Hal, Sam and Sam's son, I learned about the people during the war and how everyday life was affected. I learned about the spy-type efforts that went on and the anti-German sentiment that was rampant. It taught me that there is so much more to war than what I thought.I thoroughly enjoyed the relationship building between Hal and Sam even though there is a secret between them. Watching these complex characters interact during the war was very interesting. It was hard to get away from the book for any period of time and it never seemed to drag. I enjoyed the aspects of Hal's job and the intrigue there, the people he met and Sam's family. It was all very interesting to watch play out in front of me.I honestly cannot say enough about this book. It's rich in descriptions, characterization and plot that keeps it moving. I enjoyed it from the first page to the last and the twists and turns along the way.If you enjoy good historical fiction - pick this one up. If this is a new genre to you - pick this one up - you won't regret it.
dudara on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Gifts of War is the debut novel from Mackenzie Ford (a pseudonym adopted by a writer of historical work). It starts on that historic Christmas in the trenches of WWI when Germans and English alike put down their weapons and celebrated Christmas together. Hal, an English officer, meets Wilhelm, his German counterpart, who asks him to pass a photograph to Sam, his English fiancee reassuring her that he is safe and well. Hal is surprised at the fact that a German has a British fiancee, but agrees to pass the message on whenever he can.However, Hal is fascinated by Sam's photo, and when he meets her in the flesh, he is captivated. In fact he is captivated to the point where he omits to mention Wilhelm, but instead starts to court Sam himself. Sam is in a tough position, she has a young son from her relationship with Wilhelm. Being an unmarried mother in WWI England is bad enough, but at least no one knows that her son is half-German. Hal eventually wins Sam over and they enter into a life of conveniance. A wife will help Hal in his burgeoning intelligence career in London, while Sam will have a husband and her son will have a father.Although Hal is in love with Sam, she does not return the feeling as she is still very much in love with Wilhelm but she is willing to accept a relationship with Hal. It is here that the selfishness of the two main characters becomes apparent, and indeed, they appear well-suited. Hal hides Wilhem's truth from Sam, while Sam gives Hal everything but her heart.The historical detail with which this novel is imbued brings the story to life, but the somewhat cold main characters can annoy the reader at times. All throughout the story, the reader wonders what resolution will come about, but the ending is weak and unstaisfying. It is a pity as the story is morally interesting. The side character of Hal's sister, Isobel, a nurse working at the war front, is quite emotional and bring a lot of warmth and depth to the character of Hal that is otherwise missing.It is an interesting piece of historical fiction, which challenges many traditional values of the time. The story is a little unpolished at times, maybe because this is Ford's first fictional novel, and is ultimately let down by an ending that fails to resolve the issues raised. However, it's still very much worth a read. It will be quite interesting to see what Ford writes next.
scarpettajunkie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Gifts Of War by Mackenzie Ford is a love story that begins during the Christmas Truce of 1914. A German gives a British soldier a picture and an agreement is struck. Hal, the British soldier promises to find his enemies English girlfriend, Sam, and to let her know her fiancé is alive and thinking of her. When Hal suffers an injury to his pelvis and is discharged, he goes to Stratford-upon-Avon to deliver the photograph. However, he finds himself falling in love with Sam. When Sam shares her secret, that her son is German and that this could ruin her reputation and cause her to lose her job as a schoolteacher, Hal holds tight to his secret.Hal and Sam¿s love affair is set among the bristling energy and change occurring while England is at war. The fates of men and women caught up in the war are expertly depicted. Hal also does his best to expose Sam to as much of England as the war will allow. His newfound job as an intelligence officer lends drama and suspense to the tale. Gifts Of War is supremely readable, fast paced, full of the rifts and make-ups of family, and puts its finger on the pulse of The War. The tragic final paragraphs will ensure that this story lingers long after the final page. I give it a big thumbs up and proclaim that this book is one that should not be missed.
ACQwoods on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book begins with the Christmas truce of 1914. A German officer and a British officer exchange gifts, and the German officer reveals that he has a girlfriend who he left behind in Britain. He asks the British officer to find her and let her know he's alive. When the British officer finds her, he falls in love and so begins his deception. The plot alone is interesting, but I enjoyed the look at British life during the war and the insight into how the Brits related to the Germans. There are also subplots into the birth of modern psychology and medicine. It's an excellent and nuanced read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I struggled with the hero and his attempt to win the woman he thinks he loves, and remain free of guilt. It was an interesting read that kept my attention, but I could not completely relate to what drove the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This would be a great television movie. The plot is intriguing. The characters are realistic and well-rounded, neither saints nor demons. Although I found the ending very disappointing and rushed, I enjoyed the book overall. Some of the material surrounding the way people behaved during World War I is far fetched. The war almost becomes another character in the book.