Review: The Storms of War

Posted 29 November, 2016 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Storms of War
By: Kate Williams
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

In the idyllic early summer of 1914, life is good for the de Witt family. Rudolf and Verena are planning the wedding of their daughter, Emmeline, while their eldest son Arthur is studying in Paris and Tom is just back from his first term at Cambridge. Celia, the youngest of the de Witt children, is on the brink of adulthood, and secretly dreams of escaping her carefully mapped out future and exploring the world.

But the onslaught of war changes everything and soon the de Witts find themselves sidelined and in danger of losing everything they hold dear. As Celia struggles to make sense of the changing world around her, she lies about her age to join the war effort and finds herself embroiled in a complex plot that puts her and those she loves in danger.

With gripping detail and brilliant empathy, Kate Williams tells the story of Celia and her family as they are shunned by a society that previously embraced them, torn apart by sorrow, and buffeted and changed by the storms of war.

I admit, this is one of those instances where the book cover is what drew my attention in…isn’t it so pretty? Anyway, historical fiction set in World War One, likenings to Downton Abbey, I thought why not? May contain some minor spoilers about the plot ahead!

Hmm, I will have to say that this book had a lot of potential, touching on a few elements surrounding World War One that I don’t often read about–namely the internment of individuals of German descent in the United Kingdom during the war, as well as homosexuality in the army–but there are so many elements jam-packed into this novel that it just felt overwhelming and didn’t quite mesh together in fluidly, if that made any sense. Not to mention there are so many aspects about this novel that reminded me of Downton Abbey; Celia joining the war effort as an ambulance driver would’ve been more interesting to me had I not read Jennier Robson’s Somewhere in France (review) which fleshed out the contribution of women driving ambulances at the frontlines much more than in this book. Perhaps that is where I had issues with the way all of these different topics meshed together: this book covered 1914 to 1919, which is pretty sprawling and doesn’t give ample enough of time to really develop some of these topics.

On a related note, as interested as I was to see where the characters end up, it was a drag to get through and honestly, the characters weren’t that great. Like there’s the obvious status of the de Witts that already set them apart and has them ingrained with a certain behaviour, but then there’s the underlying sense of all of these characters–even those from other classes–having a level of douche-ness to them. I felt so bad for Celia, she always seemed to be the last to know about things or always on the outs with what the others are doing or saying that I didn’t completely blame her for digging her heels so often and screaming for these people to take her seriously, that she was an adult. Emmeline started off as the worst but the war obviously changed her. Through Michael we see what the war was like on the front lines; I figured where his story was going early on, even when he himself didn’t quite clue in. And Arthur…even in his absense, he seemed like the biggest douchebag, I don’t know, it’s obviously an off-the-bat reaction but something tells me that he’s like that. Rudolf has his own failings and Verena seems like your typical stiff and reserved Edwardian mother. Other characters come and in and out but Tom, who worked for the de Witts, also had his moments that left me side-eyeing him.

It was hard rating The Storms of War. On the one hand it did keep me more or less glued in to see what would happen to these characters and where they would end up at the end of the war. On the other hand, I found myself groaning half the time over the characters or the way things turned out (cue in some major melodrama towards the end of the book). In the end, The Storms of War was an okay read, it shed some light on some lesser-known aspects surrounding World War One but otherwise it wasn’t terribly memorable for me. I sadly won’t be picking up the next book in the trilogy.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

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