Gone to Soldiers

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

More than forty years after the conclusion of World War II, the conflict still exerts a tremendous hold over the imagination of many Americans. Its villains remain the ultimate measure of evil, its major battles landmarks of heroism, its consequence the shape of the modern world. Marge Piercy’s GONE TO SOLDIERS is a novel, consciously epic in scope, which follows the linked lives of ten central characters who are designed to reflect the range of human experience during the war.

Piercy, an accomplished novelist and poet, intends to retell the honored legends of courage and valor for the generation that lived through the war and to introduce a contemporary audience to the politics, social movements, and fierce battles of the struggle. Effectively intertwining extensive research, personal family experience, and a very powerful imagination, the novel is structured around several Jewish families of widely varying social backgrounds whose lives are drawn together by their work for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the army’s intelligence organization. Piercy’s poetic skills enable her to produce battlefield scenes of harrowing intensity, but her primary focus is an intelligence agency because she wishes to demonstrate that the mind is the most fascinating weapon of human combat.

Although the multicharacter narrative is sometimes distracting when abrupt shifts undercut the momentum of the story, and although not all of the characters are imagined or developed with equal interest or insight, the wide range of the book gives it the panoramic power of the great novels of the nineteenth century. While Piercy is equally capable of rendering male or female...

(The entire section is 688 words.)