MY DEAR I WANTED TO TELL YOU

Louisa Young

The lives of two very different couples—an officer and his aristocratic wife, and a young soldier and his childhood sweetheart—are irrevocably intertwined and forever changed in this stunning World War I epic of love and war.

At eighteen years old, working-class Riley Purefoy and “posh” Nadine Waveney have promised each other the future, but when war erupts across Europe, everything they hold to be true is thrown into question. Dispatched to the trenches, Riley forges a bond of friendship with his charismatic commanding officer, Peter Locke, as they fight for their survival. Yet it is Locke’s wife, Julia,

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The lives of two very different couples—an officer and his aristocratic wife, and a young soldier and his childhood sweetheart—are irrevocably intertwined and forever changed in this stunning World War I epic of love and war.

At eighteen years old, working-class Riley Purefoy and “posh” Nadine Waveney have promised each other the future, but when war erupts across Europe, everything they hold to be true is thrown into question. Dispatched to the trenches, Riley forges a bond of friendship with his charismatic commanding officer, Peter Locke, as they fight for their survival. Yet it is Locke’s wife, Julia, who must cope with her husband’s transformation into a distant shadow of the man she once knew. Meanwhile, Nadine and Riley’s bonds are tested as well by a terrible injury and the imperfect rehabilitation that follows it, as both couples struggle to weather the storm of war that rages about them.

Moving among Ypres, London, and Paris, this emotionally rich and evocative novel is both a powerful exploration of the lasting effects of war on those who fight—and those who don’t—and a poignant testament to the enduring power of love.

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  • Harper Perennial
  • Paperback
  • June 2012
  • 336 Pages
  • 9780061997150

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$14.99

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About Louisa Young

Louisa Young grew up in London in the house in which Peter Pan was written. She studied modern history at Cambridge and was for many years a freelance journalist, working mostly for the Motorcycle Press, Marie Claire, and the Guardian. She lives in London and Italy with her daughter and the composer Robert Lockhart.

Praise

“Every once in a while comes a novel that generates its own success, simply by being loved. Louisa Young’s My Dear I Wanted to Tell You inspires the kind of devotion among its readers not seen since David Nicholls’ One Day.”The Times (London)

“Young makes use of her abundant storytelling gifts in her first novel for adults. . . . A moving tale of men and women tested to their limits by World War I. . . . My Dear I Wanted to Tell You exhibits a determined faith in human beings’ ability to heal—if not entirely, then at least sufficiently—from the wounds inflicted by war. And Young has chosen her title with care. This masterly storyteller fervently believes that the healing process begins with a decision to share your stories, no matter how terrible, with those you love.” Wendy Smith, Washington Post

“Singular in quality. . . . The plot has a certain Atonement feel to it . . . but the similarities become increasingly irrelevant as Young’s characters come into their own and easily shoulder the burden of escorting readers through an unsensationalized and thoughtful story of English class, world war, and that universal constant—love.”Publishers Weekly

“My Dear I Wanted to Tell You is the story of people torn apart literally and figuratively by war. Through it all, Riley Purefoy is an irresistible, deeply memorable character, whose travails bring the Great War and those who suffered from it to life.”Booklist

Discussion Questions

To what extent does Riley’s class influence his behavior, and the behavior of others throughout the novel?

How does Riley’s attitude to the war change as the novel progresses?

How does Riley’s attitude to the war change as the novel progresses?

Do you think the actions of Riley and his reasons for going to war were good ones and do you think society has learnt lessons from the atrocities that occurred, or is it still happening today?

Do you think society’s attitude to going to war today (ex: Afghanistan) differs from the attitude at the time of the First World War?

“Julia had learnt to love her own beauty, because beauty was currency, and other people valued it so highly.” Discuss how this view of Julia’s influences her behavior throughout the novel.

Compare her experiences of plastic surgery with those of Riley’s. Is feeling ugly on the inside really that different to looking ugly on the outside?

“A girl needs a good reputation, these days more than ever. Art school is for times of peace and plenty, not for unmarried girls in wartime.” Consider this advice that Nadine’s mother gives her. How does this symbolize society’s attitude to women, and does the war change this view in the novel?

The title of the novel is taken from a standard-issue field postcard that soldiers had to fill in during the war – Riley fills in one such field postcard. Consider the ways we communicated with our loved ones then compared to now.