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Review of Lovely War

Lovely War
by Julie Berry
High School    Viking    471 pp.
3/19    978-0-451-46993-9    $18.99

When the Greek god of fire, Hephaestus, catches his wife Aphrodite, goddess of love, in 1942 Manhattan in a passionate affair with his brother Ares, god of war, Aphrodite defends her actions by showing the two gods what real love looks like. With pathos and wit, Aphrodite relates two intertwined love stories involving four mortals swept up in World War I. Eighteen-year-old Hazel Windicott meets nineteen-year-old James Alderidge when she’s playing piano at a parish dance in her London neighborhood a week before he’s set to report for military service in France. And it’s Hazel who introduces the other couple to each other: YMCA relief worker Colette Fournier, a Belgian orphan whose family was killed by the Germans, and ragtime/jazz musician Aubrey Edwards, an African American doughboy from Harlem. The four humans suffer great losses throughout the course of this saga, driving home Aphrodite’s eloquent point that everyone, human and god alike, is entitled to love and be loved, no matter his or her imperfections. Berry showcases her masterful storytelling ability, weaving together a tale — in tight, short chapters that keep the pace moving — that spans years, continents, and multiple perspectives, with poetic descriptions painting a vivid picture for readers (candlelight bends back and forth “gracefully, like a flock of starlings in flight”). She doesn’t shrink from addressing heavy-hitting and still-pertinent topics: racism, the horrors of war, women’s subjugated role in society. This poignant novel will make readers, by turns, laugh, cry, and swoon, but what Aphrodite offers most is hope: “Let them start their dreadful wars, let destruction rain down, and let plague sweep through, but I will still be here, doing my work, holding humankind together with love like this.” Back matter includes a bibliography and extensive historical notes on WWI.

From the March/April 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Cynthia K. Ritter About Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is associate editor of The Horn Book Guide. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons College.

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