Cbr14bingo Gaslight/Bingo Blackout Action takes place during and in decades prior to WWI. A couple of characters struggle to believe the truth and question each other’s reliability.
The Return of the Soldier is a novella that exposes the iniquities of Britain’s class system against the backdrop of World War I. It is a heartbreaking love story that focuses on the women in one soldier’s life as he convalesces following an unusual injury in France.
This story features four main characters. The injured soldier, Captain Chris Baldry, is in his early 30s and comes from an affluent family with property and a fine home in England. His wife Kitty is a beautiful, petite blond, also from the upper class, who is preoccupied with looks and image. Jenny, the narrator, is Chris’ cousin and friend from childhood; she is single and around the same age as Chris. Margaret is a middle class woman, the daughter of an inn keeper and, in the opinion of both Kitty and Jenny, she is plain and drab. When they first meet Margaret, Kitty and Jenny cannot get past her clothes and threadbare handbag, and the news that Margaret gives them, quite reluctantly, leads the two women to think she is a scam artist trying to trick them out of money. Margaret tells Kitty and Jenny that she has received a letter from Chris and that he is in a hospital in France. Kitty is sure that this is not true as the War Office would have contacted her if anything had happened to her husband. Jenny, based on observing Margaret during their brief audience, begins to wonder if there is some truth to what Margaret says and is eventually able to discover that Chris is indeed injured in France. He is suffering from amnesia and cannot remember the last 15 years of his life; he thinks he is a young man and does not know he is married. The question then is why did he contact Margaret? What is she to him, this woman who is clearly not in the same league as Chris, Kitty or Jenny?
When Chris comes home, he understands that Kitty is supposed to be his wife but clearly does not recognize her and feels nothing for her. The changes in his own home, changes he should have remembered, are shocking to him. He remembers Jenny and speaks with her about his past, and from this Jenny begins to understand who Margaret is. With Kitty’s approval, Jenny approaches Margaret to visit Chris, understanding that this will bring him some comfort. As Margaret’s story unfolds, Jenny begins to see her in a different light, appreciating the beauty and kindness in this woman from Chris’ past.
The end to this story really is heartbreaking because there is no ending that can bring happiness to all (or perhaps to any). Given that this is a WWI novel, that should not be surprising, but while the horror of the trenches is alluded to in the story, it is the damage that both war and class barriers have done to personal relationships that is at the center of the novel. Rebecca West wrote and published this story in 1918 to much acclaim in both Britain and the US. Its focus on women, class and relationships makes it somewhat unusual amongst other WWI literature and all the more interesting to read.