Flashback Friday is my own little weekly tradition, in which I pick a book from my reading past to highlight — and you’re invited to join in!
Here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:
- Has to be something you’ve read yourself
- Has to still be available, preferably still in print
- Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago
Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!
My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:
The Crimson Portrait by Jody Shields
Spring 1915. On a sprawling country estate not far from London a young woman mourns her husband, fallen on the battlefields of what has been declared the first World War… But the isolated and eerie stillness in which she grieves is shattered when her home is transformed into a bustling military hospital to serve the war’s most irreparably injured. Disturbed by the intrusion of the suffering men and their caretakers, the young widow finds unexpected solace in the company of a wounded soldier whose face, concealed by bandages, she cannot see. Their affair takes an unexpected turn when fate presents her with an opportunity: to remake her lover with the unwitting help of a visionary surgeon and an American woman artist in the image of her lost husband. Inspired by the little-known but extraordinary collaboration between artists and surgeons in the treatment of wounded men in the First World War, The Crimson Portrait peels back layers of suspense and intrigue to illuminate the abiding mysteries of identity and desire.
The Crimson Portrait is an atmospheric novel, creating the feeling of life during the Great War. I read this several years ago in the days before Downton Abbey, but now I can’t help but picture this book in a Downton-like setting, with stretchers full of hideously wounded young men filling the elegant rooms of the manor. In The Crimson Portrait, the wounded at this particular estate all suffer from facial injuries, from mild to complete disfigurement. We witness the early stages of facial reconstructive techniques, as doctors and artists work together to alleviate suffering and give these poor young soldiers a chance at something resembling a normal life. Meanwhile, the young widow of the estate sets in motion a plan to alleviate her heartbreak; it’s twisted and unhealthy, sure, but it’s also terribly sad and I couldn’t help but feel compassion for this young woman and her struggle to make sense of her loss.
I always find that WWI-era novels like this one, taking place in the most genteel of settings, pack a huge emotional punch, as they convey the utter horror of war and the mindless tragedy of the losses suffered — all in stark contrast to the lovely greenery of the English countryside. In The Crimson Portrait, we see the waste and ruin of a generation of young men, and the terrible, unending ache left to their survivors. It’s a beautifully written story, fascinating and sorrowful, and I recommend it for anyone interested in reading about that particular time in history.
Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!