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The Soldier's Return

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The Soldier's Return

By Melvyn Bragg

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Format: Hardback, 288 pages
Published In: United Kingdom, 26 August 1999
When Sam Richardson returns in 1946 from the 'Forgotten War' in Burma to Wigton in Cumbria, he finds little has changed, as far as his own limited prospects go. In his absence, though, his young family has altered immensely. His wife Ellen has found a sense of self worth in her war time jobs, and doesn't want to return to her old life. Their six-year-old son Joe, accustomed to his mother's undivided love and attention, doesn't welcome the father he barely remembers. And Sam finds the traumatic scenes he witnessed in Burma have changed him too, making the confines of this working class Cumbrian town stifling. The result is a family in turmoil, which reaches breaking point when Sam resolves to emigrate to Australia. Based on Melvyn Bragg's own family and strongly evocative of its era as well as the Cumbrian landscape, this taut and powerful novel sits firmly in the tradition of his hugely popular Cumbrian novels.

About the Author

Melvyn Bragg's first novel, For Want of a Nail, was published in 1965 and since then his novels have included The Hired Man, for which he won the Time/Life Silver Pen Award, Without a City Wall, winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, Credo and The Maid of Buttermere. He has also written several works of non-fiction including Speak for England, an oral history of the twentieth century, and Rich, a biography of Richard Burton. He was born in 1939 and educated at Wigton's Nelson Tomlinson Shool and at Oxford where he read history. He is controller of Arts at LWT and President of the National Campaign for the Arts, and in 1998 he was made a life peer. He lives in London and Cumbria.

Reviews

'A novel written in fine steel sentences and granite paragraphs, classic British fiction, as good as the best. And a book to be read at a slow pace, for two reasons: to savor the writing, sometimes going back over a sentence for the pleasure of it, and to forestall the conclusion ... Fairly hums with suspense. ... From beginning to end, Bragg avoids melodrama, and allows the characters, all of them fundamentally decent, and very quietly heroic, to tell their own stories ... Melvyn Bragg is an exceptionally gifted fictional geographer ... Wigton lives on every page, and so do its people: rich, poor and who knows. But there's not a cliche in the whole novel and not a whiff of condascension ... Like any really good novel, The Soldier's Return is generous with the space it leaves for the reader. That is only one of its virtues; there are many others. It's nothing new to write a novel about family life, but for a writer of this quality subject doesn't particularly matter. At this level of quality - fidelity to the way the world really works, absolute integrity and poetry where it's wanted - Melvyn Bragg could write about anything at all, and still come out with an exceptional, and an exceptionally good, work of fiction.' -- Alan Furst, Washington Post 'Fascinating ... powerfully written, Melvyn Bragg is a master of atmosphere ... I believe this to be a very gem of a novel, profoundly satisfying ... a bestseller for certain' Publishing News 'The book's tarnished family romance has a cold epic simplicity that aligns it with myth as much as social history ... The novel shears away a lot of context to present a close family driven to the edge of collapse by the very stoic silence that has helped pull it through war, hardship and separation. Paradoxically, one of this era's most ubiquitous media voices writes with tremendous empathy about the vanished culture of least said, soonest mended ... one of the tautest and fiercest of Bragg's fictions, alongside FOR WANT OF A NAIL, THE HIRED MAN and THE MAID OF BUTTERMERE.' Independent 'Fascinating ... powerfully written, Melvyn Bragg is a master of atmosphere ... I believe this to be a very gem of a novel, profoundly satisfying ... a bestseller for certain' Tim Manderson, Publishing News: 'Bragg recaptures a place and society utterly lost to us today. The alleys and wastegrounds cottage slums, the bucolic perfection of the surrounding country, are minutely though not laboriously described, while the people are made alive through their talk. This is a great achievement...Bragg keeps a powerful grip on the reader's interest. The unrolling of events is slow and subtle, taking us towards a grand finale...Its dramatic qualities apart, The Soldier's Return is about the turmoil of those who, while fully aware of what is going on inside themselves, remain inarticulate not because they are unaware of their thoughts and feelings, but out of stoicism and self-respect - out of an inborn trait which they perversely foster, on the assumption that this approach to life will cause less suffering in the end. It is a good subject for a novelist to explore, and Melvyn Bragg does it most impressively' Alan Sillitoe, Guardian, August 99 'Bragg has made no secret of his passion for DH Lawrence and the influence he has had on him. He describes the wild Cumbrian countryside and the 'small squares and runnels and alleyways' of Wigton like the loyal native he is. It is a world of hardship and fellowship where it is 'always better not to talk' about your problems...This novel reads like Lawrence without the lunacy and stodginess. It packs an emotional punch that will even have cynics sobbing by the last page. All of us hanker after unconditional love, the memory of our father's arms around us. THE SOLDIER'S RETURN feels like the book Bragg was born to write. Time Out, August 99 'Sympathetic, touching, infinitely believable...this is a highly accomplished novel' DJ Taylor, Literary Review 'Strong, straightforward, explicit, evocative ... a very good novel ... Anyone old enough to remember the Second World War's end in the North of England will recognise with a pang the idioms and the mood of the period Bragg has re-created in this book. He is not quite old enough to have lived through that himself, and it says much for his literary skill that he has conjured those images and those responses so perfectly ... It is common to compare Bragg to Hardy, Lawrence and Housman as a novelist of place, but more than anyone he reminds me of JB Priestley. He has the same much underrated strengths.' Geoffrey Moorhouse, Daily Telegraph ' 'Wigton is a haunting presence in Melvyn Bragg's fiction.' 'Bragg has produced a convincing tale of an everyman stuggling to come to terms with profound individual and social change.' 'What is most impressive about the novel, in the end, are the sparse descriptive passages of the physical landscape and the way in which Bragg weaves a chronicle of social change into the larger narrative.' Terri Natalie, The New Statesman, 27 September, 1999 'Bragg's finest novel to date, a moving story of tensions within a newly reunited family' The Sunday Times 'Bragg's finest novel to date, a moving story of tensions within a newly reunited family' P'Fascinating ... powerfully written, Melvyn Bragg is a master of atmosphere ... I believe this to be a very gem of a novel, profoundly satisfying ... a bestseller for certain' Publishing News 'The book's tarnished family romance has a cold epic simplicity that aligns it with myth as much as social history ... The novel shears away a lot of context to present a close family driven to the edge of collapse by the very stoic silence that has helped pull it through war, hardship and separation. Paradoxically, one of this era's most ubiquitous media voices writes with tremendous empathy about the vanished culture of least said, soonest mended ... one of the tautest and fiercest of Bragg's fictions, alongside FOR WANT OF A NAIL, THE HIRED MAN and THE MAID OF BUTTERMERE.' Independent 'Fascinating ... powerfully written, Melvyn Bragg is a master of atmosphere ... I believe this to be a very gem of a novel, profoundly satisfying ... a bestseller for certain' Tim Manderson, Publishing News: 'Bragg recaptures a place and society utterly lost to us today. The alleys and wastegrounds cottage slums, the bucolic perfection of the surrounding country, are minutely though not laboriously described, while the people are made alive through their talk. This is a great achievement...Bragg keeps a powerful grip on the reader's interest. The unrolling of events is slow and subtle, taking us towards a grand finale...Its dramatic qualities apart, The Soldier's Return is about the turmoil of those who, while fully aware of what is going on inside themselves, remain inarticulate not because they are unaware of their thoughts and feelings, but out of stoicism and self-respect - out of an inborn trait which they perversely foster, on the assumption that this approach to life will cause less suffering in the end. It is a good subject for a novelist to explore, and Melvyn Bragg does it most impressively' Alan Sillitoe, Guardian, August 99 'Bragg has made no secret of his passion for DH Lawrence and the influence he has had on him. He describes the wild Cumbrian countryside and the 'small squares and runnels and alleyways' of Wigton like the loyal native he is. It is a world of hardship and fellowship where it is 'always better not to talk' about your problems...This novel reads like Lawrence without the lunacy and stodginess. It packs an emotional punch that will even have cynics sobbing by the last page. All of us hanker after unconditional love, the memory of our father's arms around us. THE SOLDIER'S RETURN feels like the book Bragg was born to write. Time Out, August 99 'Sympathetic, touching, infinitely believable...this is a highly accomplished novel' DJ Taylor, Literary Review 'Strong, straightforward, explicit, evocative ... a very good novel ... Anyone old enough to remember the Second World War's end in the North of England will recognise with a pang the idioms and the mood of the period Bragg has re-created in this book. He is not quite old enough to have lived through that himself, and it says much for his literary skill that he has conjured those images and those responses so perfectly ... It is common to compare Bragg to Hardy, Lawrence and Housman as a novelist of place, but more than anyone he reminds me of JB Priestley. He has the same much underrated strengths.' Geoffrey Moorhouse, Daily Telegraph ' 'Wigton is a haunting presence in Melvyn Bragg's fiction.' 'Bragg has produced a convincing tale of an everyman stuggling to come to terms with profound individual and social change.' 'What is most impressive about the novel, in the end, are the sparse descriptive passages of the physical landscape and the way in which Bragg weaves a chronicle of social change into the larger narrative.' Terri Natalie, The New Statesman, 27 September, 1999 'Bragg's finest novel to date, a moving story of tensions within a newly reunited family' The Sunday Times 'Bragg's finest novel to date, a moving story of tensions within a newly reunited family' P'Fascinating ... powerfully written, Melvyn Bragg is a master of atmosphere ... I believe this to be a very gem of a novel, profoundly satisfying ... a bestseller for certain' Publishing News 'The book's tarnished family romance has a cold epic simplicity that aligns it with myth as much as social history ... The novel shears away a lot of context to present a close family driven to the edge of collapse by the very stoic silence that has helped pull it through war, hardship and separation. Paradoxically, one of this era's most ubiquitous media voices writes with tremendous empathy about the vanished culture of least said, soonest mended ... one of the tautest and fiercest of Bragg's fictions, alongside FOR WANT OF A NAIL, THE HIRED MAN and THE MAID OF BUTTERMERE.' Independent 'Fascinating ... powerfully written, Melvyn Bragg is a master of atmosphere ... I believe this to be a very gem of a novel, profoundly satisfying ... a bestseller for certain' Tim Manderson, Publishing News: 'Bragg recaptures a place and society utterly lost to us today. The alleys and wastegrounds cottage slums, the bucolic perfection of the surrounding country, are minutely though not laboriously described, while the people are made alive through their talk. This is a great achievement...Bragg keeps a powerful grip on the reader's interest. The unrolling of events is slow and subtle, taking us towards a grand finale...Its dramatic qualities apart, The Soldier's Return is about the turmoil of those who, while fully aware of what is going on inside themselves, remain inarticulate not because they are unaware of their thoughts and feelings, but out of stoicism and self-respect - out of an inborn trait which they perversely foster, on the assumption that this approach to life will cause less suffering in the end. It is a good subject for a novelist to explore, and Melvyn Bragg does it most impressively' Alan Sillitoe, Guardian, August 99 'Bragg has made no secret of his passion for DH Lawrence and the influence he has had on him. He describes the wild Cumbrian countryside and the 'small squares and runnels and alleyways' of Wigton like the loyal native he i Paradoxically, one of this era's most ubiquitous media voices writes with tremendous empathy about the vanished culture of least said, soonest mended ... one of the tautest and fiercest of Bragg's fictions, alongside FOR WANT OF A NAIL, THE HIRED MAN and THE MAID OF BUTTERMERE.' -- Independent 'Reads like Lawrence without the lunacy and stodginess. It packs an emotional punch that will even have cynics sobbing by the last page. All of us hanker after unconditional love, the memory of our father's arms around us. THE SOLDIER'S RETURN feels like the book Bragg was born to write' -- Time Out 'Sympathetic, touching, infinitely believable...this is a highly accomplished novel' -- Literary Review 'Strong, straightforward, explicit, evocative ... a very good novel ... It is common to compare Bragg to Hardy, Lawrence and Housman as a novelist of place, but more than anyone he reminds me of JB Priestley. He has the same much underrated strengths' -- Daily Telegraph 'Bragg recaptures a place and society utterly lost to us today...A great achievement... THE SOLDIER'S RETURN is about the turmoil of those who, while fully aware of what is going on inside themselves, remain inariculate not because they are unaware of their thoughts and feelings, but out of stoicism and self-respect - out of an inborn triat which they perversely foster, on the assumption that this approach to life will cause less suffering in the end. It is a good subject for a novelist to explore, and Melvyn Bragg does it most impressively' -- Guardian 'Classic British fiction, as good as the best ... Melvyn Bragg could write about anything at all, and still come out with an exceptional, and an exceptionally good, work of fiction.' -- Alan Furst, Washington Post

EAN: 9780340751008
ISBN: 0340751002
Publisher: Sceptre
Dimensions: 3.4 x 16.2 x 24.2 centimetres (0.65 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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