Book review: The Winter Soldier — by Daniel Mason

(Little, Brown and Company)
As a child, Lucius Krzelewski, Vienna-bred son of a decorated Polish lancer and his clever and socially ambitious wife, holds “a stone in his pocket as a reminder to smile.” He stutters, but not “when he was alone, nor when he spoke of his science magazines.” And later, when in medical school, a great anatomist declares his “unusual aptitude for the perception of things beneath the skin,” Lucius knows he has found his calling. Two years shy of his becoming an actual doctor, though, the Great War calls him to a field hospital deep in the Polish countryside, very near the front. There, in a village church, he learns from Nurse Margarete — a Sister of Saint Catherine, or so she tells him — how to amputate limbs, forage for food when provisions run out, and to be at ease in her company. At first, theirs is a chaste bond, but as the emotional tolls mount with shared exposure to suffering and brutality, so too does their attraction to one another, forbidden though it may seem. Alas, as the war brings them together, it too tears them apart, and the second half of the novel is Lucius’s desperate search for Margarete. “The Winter Soldier” is a deeply moving novel with a propulsive plot, one I know will touch many readers.
— Reviewed by Becky Dayton of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.
7 great novels of World War I
The Return of the Soldier, by Rebecca West
A Soldier of the Great War, by Mark Helprin
The Regeneration Trilogy, by Pat Barker
All Quiet On the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque
A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
August 1914: A Novel, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
A Long Long Way, by Sebastian Barry

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