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The Return Of The Soldier

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World War I, in the background of Rebecca West's first novel, was the first war that women could imagine, writes Samuel Hynes in his eloquent introduction, and so it was the first that a woman could write into a novel. Narrated by a woman who, like West, has never experienced war and yet for whom the war was very real, The Return of the Soldier (1918) takes place not on a battlefield, but in an isolated country house. It examines the relationships between three women and a soldier suffering from shell shock. This novel of an enclosed world invaded by public events also embodies in its characters the shifts in England's class structures at the beginning of the twentieth century, as well as the choice between the romantic past and the horrifying present, between love and reality.