Author: Julie Berry Publisher: Viking
I’d seen a lot of reviews for this book before I read it and I thought it would be a perfect read for me – an impressive mix of mythology, historical fiction and romance. I have to admit, though, that the majority of the book left me cold, it wasn’t until the last third that I became interested. Once again, I find myself at odds with most reviewers who loved the book. I liked this book, but I didn’t find it captivated me like I think a book of this magnitude should do. I found it slightly dull, particularly the interaction of the characters with each other. I thought Berry’s writing lacked humour and it was all so so.
I do applaud Berry for her meticulously researched book that spans two wars and two worlds. The majority of the action revolves around four young people finding love, experiencing loss and discovering themselves during World War I, but the principal story is set during World War II – a romantic triangle between three Greek Gods: Aphrodite, the goddess of love; her husband, Hephaestus, the god of fire and Ares, the god of war.
I will admit that Berry manages to weave these two storylines together magnificently. She is quite a competent writer, but it lacks humour, charm and that something that makes you want to keep on reading and for the story to never end. Personally, I found the book quite tedious at times and there were many times that I consider not actually finishing the book. To be quite honest, I couldn’t wait for the book to end!
I did read from many reviewers that they were amused and delighted by the Immortals’ snarky comments and constant competition with one another. Though I was left bored and I didn’t find the storyline amusing.
Berry begins her story in a Manhattan hotel on the eve of World War II, Aphrodite and Ares have been caught together by Hephaestus – Aphrodite’s husband and Ares’ brother. Hephaestus gives Aphrodite a chance to explain herself and so she begins to weave an elaborate tale of mortal love during wartime.
Moving between the present and the past, the goddess’ narrative centres on Aubrey, an African-American musician, Colette, a Belgian singer; Hazel, a naïve British pianist; and her beau, James, a hopeful architect who are all brought together by fate during the First World War.
The resulting story told by Berry is visually beautiful and historically accurate. By having an African-American character, Berry can highlight the racism that occurred during this time and this gives the book a point of difference.
So what kept me reading besides my stubbornness to finish. Berry does write beautifully. Her sharp eye for detail is quite compelling. I found myself lost in her writing of places such as London and Paris. She captures the beauty and makes you wish it was you walking the cobblestone streets of Paris. She also depicted the French front remarkably well – the nightmare that those young soldiers went through and she makes you wonder how so many of them were able to come home to a relatively normal life after all that they had experienced and witnessed.
The first casualty of war is the truth.
The characters are beautifully written and quite authentic, but I didn’t find that they kept my attention. I found the conversations between the characters quite mind-numbing and I wanted more. I wanted to feel their vibrancy, their youth, their humour and their originality. I also wanted to be enchanted by the Gods, particularly Aphrodite. I did like the take that Berry took on Hades, God of the Dead and the Underworld; I thought that she showed an interesting side to this god and his story was one that did have me quite interested.
Many have said that this is an unforgettable romance, I disagree. The writing of the places is beautiful – Berry has a way of transporting you to another place and this is a gift, but I didn’t find the characters memorable and I didn’t feel invested in any of the characters. I read that this novel will make you laugh, cry and swoon, but I didn’t feel any of these emotions when reading Lovely War.
But in saying all of that, this is one book that I will keep because it is so sumptuously beautiful.