My Dear I Wanted to Tell You
My Dear I Wanted to Tell You takes its title from a standard field letter sent by soldiers wounded in the Great War to family and friends back home. This book, however, attempts to show that not all injuries are physical, and often there are layers of pain to recover from before both sides of a relationship can be healed.
Set during the World War I years, this novel focuses on the problems of social class and the inability to move beyond the caste in which one had been born. There are two couples central to the story: Riley Purefoy, a working-class young man, and Nadine Waverly, the posh friend with whom he falls in love; and Peter Locke, Riley’s commanding officer, and his wife, Julia, left alone back in England. Riley enters the service to escape his feelings for Nadine and a drunken tryst of which he is ashamed; Peter sees his involvement in the war as his duty, yet his beautiful, vapid young wife is left alone and bereft back home. The paths these four take as they try to define their relationships form the backbone of the story, but the war itself is just as much a character as they.
I was pleased to garner a good feel for the time period from the novel, but unfortunately, the narrative is uneven, and Peter and Julia are simply not all that compelling. Had the story focused more on Riley and Nadine, whose relationship seemed much more realistic and complex, I might have felt more engaged. The battle scenes are quite well done and gritty, but in a book focusing on relationships, those scenes should have reinforced the story rather than making its shortcomings more noticeable. It just leaves you feeling that it could have been so much more.