The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

This short novel is superficially about the bitter cost of the First World War. However, it is really a pretty ode to truth. The central idea of the text is that if we live inauthentic lives our happiness is illusory. Further, the truth may be extremely painful. Hence there is little comfort to be found in the compelling narrative.

Nevertheless, the innocence of the Edwardian era yields a little light relief. The profound social injustices, anxieties and tensions of that period do receive a mention, but the hopes and romances of that time are coloured in with a bright pen. Rebecca West was something of a radical in her youth and her social conscience is evident in this wise book. Her collapse into conservatism occurred later in her career and at this point she had learned:

“There is, you know, really room for all of us; we each have our peculiar use.”


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