Rebecca West never received the same acclaim for her novels as she did for her critical and journalistic work. While her novels were praised for their complexity, West was often criticized for overintellectualizing her stories. Critics have frequently asserted that her novels lack action. In fact, all her novels are characterized by extended internal monologues. In addition, West uses long, complex sentences; she has frequently been compared to Henry James in both subject matter and style. A West novel demands the reader’s close attention. Most of her novels take place during the Edwardian era or explore the values and social behaviors of that period. Within this background, her fiction examines the relationships between men and women, most of which seem doomed to failure. Her stories are presented through a feminine perspective; West’s usual narrator is a young woman who is intelligent, sensitive, and clever.
The Return of the Soldier
The title character of her first short novel, The Return of the Soldier, is Chris Baldry, a shell-shocked soldier who is suffering from amnesia. This is a story about love rather than war, however. The novel opens as Chris’s wife, Kitty, and his cousin Jenny, the narrator, wait to receive a letter from the war front. Instead they are visited by Margaret Grey, a shabbily dressed woman, who tells them that she has received a message from Chris. As a result of his injuries, Chris has forgotten...
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