The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason
My Rating: ####/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.97/5
Published September 11th, 2018
I have indicated a spoiler-free and spoiler-included section.
“Vienna, 1914. Lucius is a twenty-two-year-old medical student when World War I explodes across Europe. Enraptured by romantic tales of battlefield surgery, he enlists, expecting a position at a well-organized field hospital. But when he arrives, at a commandeered church tucked away high in a remote valley of the Carpathian Mountains, he finds a freezing outpost ravaged by typhus. The other doctors have fled, and only a single, mysterious nurse named Sister Margarete remains.
But Lucius has never lifted a surgeon’s scalpel. And as the war rages across the winter landscape, he finds himself falling in love with the woman from whom he must learn a brutal, makeshift medicine. Then one day, an unconscious soldier is brought in from the snow, his uniform stuffed with strange drawings. He seems beyond rescue until Lucius makes a fateful decision that will change the lives of doctor, patient, and nurse forever…” – Goodreads
I was gifted a copy of The Winter Soldier by Pan Macmillan SA.
- Violence and Gore
SPOILER FREE SECTION:
I have read many a World War II story, but this is only my second World War I novel. When a book is praised by authors like Anthony Doerr and Elizabeth Macneal, it has a certain appeal. Daniel Mason did not disappoint. Fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, All the Light We Cannot See and The Girl You Left Behind will adore Mason’s writing style.
Lucius only ever wanted to be a doctor. He has visions of breakthrough medical discoveries and exploring the human anatomy (and fleeing from his awful mother), but war is not something he is prepared for… at all. Lucius is posted to a remote field church-turned-hospital, far removed from hygienic operating rooms and state-of-the-art medical technology. His only salvation is a single nurse who has learned what it requires to survive not just the war, but also the aftermath. But the 1914 Austro-Hungarian Empire has unforgivable winters; add to that, brutal war and Lucius is completely out of his depth.
The writing is impeccable. Mason weaves a story that flows smoothly, is interesting and lets you feel deeply for each character. The setting is well-crafted and adventures. There are luscious evening dinners and harsh, gruesome battlefields. It is a time where PTSD was not considered a medical diagnosis and the only priority is showing up, fighting the war and staying alive. The story is both heart-warming and heartbreaking. Part mystery, part war story, part romance – there is something for everyone.
SPOILER INCLUDED SECTION:
Lucius’s character development is relatable. By the end of the book, I felt that I had made a new gentleman friend and was proud of the young man he had become, even if his story did not have a happy ending.