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Book Review: Lovely War by Julie Berry

If music stops, and art ceases, and beauty fades, what have we then?

Lovely War

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was an extremely heartbreaking yet beautiful novel and honestly, I think this novel is one of my all-time favourites. I found this novel on booktube a few years ago and I originally listened to the audiobook (which I think is part of the reason why I loved this novel so much since there was a voice actor for all the different characters and perspectives) and almost immediately when I started the novel, I fell in love with it.

So, this novel is narrated by Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love. Essentially, Aphrodite was caught cheating on her husband, Hephaestus, with her lover Ares and was put on trial to explain her actions. Set during the two World Wars, Aphrodite used the love stories of four humans to explain love. That a god loves differently from how humans love, that love and war are opposite sides of the same coin, that love is humanity and humanity is tragic and beautiful.

The love stories follow Hazel, James, Aubrey and Colette.

Hazel is a shy pianist who falls in love with James, who is a soldier drafted to fight in the war when he really wants to settle down and be an architect. The two meet at a London party during James’ off-time and fall in love, only for James to be shipped off to fight in the front lines.

Aubrey is also a soldier from America. He was a musician whose dream is to start a band and play and make music for the rest of his life. But he was part of the all-African-America regiment and was sent to Europe to fight in a war he hoped that the sacrifice would grant them better rights in America and didn’t plan on falling in love at all. Colette, a woman who survived the Germans and sings for soldiers and civilians around London, fell for Aubrey and was united in their love for music.

On one hand, this is your classic war-time romance novel. We already know there will be tragedy and heartbreak from the beginning, but while I was reading the novel I couldn’t help but have hope that our characters would make it.

That leads me to my favourite aspect of this novel: I think the writing is absolutely agonising and beautiful. The way this novel examines what love is and how it gives humans humanity is so romantic and yet so sad at the same time was amazingly done. The beautiful writing along with the plot really makes this novel amazing.

The romance is super cute and fluffy and heartfelt and the ending for some of the characters (main characters and the side characters) is upsetting.

Since it has been a while since I read the book, I won’t go into detail about what I think about each of the individual characters like I usually do, but I do want to bring up one minor issue I had with the characters: and that issue is that the romance between the character did feel a little bit ‘Insta-lovey’. I am not a fan of the insta-love trope, I like the pining, the prolonged affection and tension between the characters before it clicks into place. The characters in this novel are a little bit insta-lovey BUT, in saying so, I think this novel just gets away with it because of the themes and message this novel is trying to impart.

So, while it does feel like a insta-love romance story, I think that because this novel is about what love is, the insta-love is something I’m willing to ignore. I watched a review that described this novel as insta-affection rather than insta-love and I think that comment describes it perfectly.

Something else I want to mention about this novel is that there is an exploration of racism in the military. Aubrey is an African-American soldier and when he was sent to war it was supposedly portrayed as a moment of honour, black people were encouraged to sign up to join the military, there was propaganda and a lot of promises in doing so. However, the reality was that white Americans that were promoting that false narrative were racist and they tormented those soldiers a lot. One example I remembered was that the African regiment was purposefully sent to the areas where the fighting was the most difficult (i.e bad weather, lots of fighting in mud, dirty environment, bad transport) as well as not being given equipment to actually fight and defend themselves with.

The reason why I appreciated this depiction is that I’ve always been under the impression that it was an honourable thing. I remember being taught in history class that there were all-African-American regiments fighting in the war and it was portrayed as a moment of progress and acceptance. But this novel brought forward the fact that while it was a step forward, it was also two steps backwards.

I also like the fact that the author provided us with a list of sources at the end of the novel in regards to this aspect of the novel as well. I’ve noticed that many authors do not include their list of sources when they release a novel that explores racism (or other serious topics) in some capacity. I think that including sources can’t hurt, especially if the author is not speaking from experience; it makes their depictions of an issue a little bit more trustworthy and (hopefully) more accurate.

Overall, this is a beautifully written heartbreaking novel. These love stories deal with love, racism, loss and what it means to be human. It is an extremely humanising novel about how we all deserve love, but pursuing it causes pleasure as well as pain in some form. The aspect of mythology was also intriguing and this is definitely a novel I’d recommend to everyone.

That’s it for my review. Thank you for reading and I hope you have an eternally lovely day.


Published by Faith

Writer. Blogger. Bad Photographer. Makeup, skincare and fashion enthusiasts (not an expert!). And bookworm extraordinaire.

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