Daniel Mason’s The Winter Soldier is a strongly-written novel of a field hospital on the Eastern front of World War One. Lucius is a young man from a family of means who finds medicine as an escape from the obligations of his birth. And when war breaks out with only a couple of years of medical school under his belt, he enlists to shun a favorable assignment his parent’s might have procured for him. The result is a commission that sends Lucius to a church that has been turned into a ward now manned by a few stalwarts, those who have not died or run off. One who has stayed on is Sister Margarete, a young woman who tests, helps, and ultimately provides the impetus for a vast change in the main character.
Mason’s phrasing and diction are exceptional; he has a way of illuminating vast details of a character in only a few sentences. His research of war and the medicine of the times creates a thoroughly convincing atmosphere. The reader is thrown on the table during the bloody amputations and in the mind of the soldier during the horrors of shell shock. Yet, I found the story to be lacking. The pacing was off and I was confused as to the central conflict because it fell off, and the plot wasn’t able to sustain a necessary tension.
The Winter Soldier is a novel that I had high hopes for, especially after reading Mason’s The Piano Tuner. While his writing is as effectual as ever and the premise is enticing, the overall arc of the story didn’t manage to hold up throughout the narrative. I loved the characters, the romance, and the look into The Great War, yet felt the thread of the story was lost about three-quarters of the way through the book.
3 out of 5 stars
Releasing on September 11th, 2018.
Thank you to NetGalley, Little, Brown, and Company, and Daniel Mason for the advanced copy for review.
I have had high hopes for this one, too, Paul, so I appreciate your thoughts on it. Wonderful, thoughtful review, and it sounds like I need to check out The Piano Tuner!
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Both books have a main character who is drastically out of his element. But The Piano Tuner’s story is fuller and completes the arc well.
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