Guest Post by Kevin Brown
Alice Winn’s debut novel follows two British teenagers—Henry Gaunt and Sidney Ellwood—during their time at an elite boarding school and into their time as soldiers during World War I. Their time at school sounds idyllic, but there are conflicts that come from Ellwood’s openness about his sexuality. It quickly becomes clear that Gaunt is also gay, but he is unwilling to admit that to himself or to others, and he is in love with Ellwood. The war significantly changes them both and forces them to confront their love, but also reminds them of the reality of the world they live in. Winn clearly conveys the horrors of the war and the loss of almost an entire generation of men, both through Gaunt and Ellwood’s experiences, but also through those of their classmates and Gaunt’s sister, Maud. She is part of a generation of young women whom adults encourage to go to the colonies, given how few men are left for them to marry. Winn creates a world where the war devastates all, leaving a world full of broken people who will have to spend the rest of their lives putting that world and their lives back together. Building their lives back is even more complicated for those on the margins, given society’s lack of acceptance of who they are. Winn reminds readers that so many did, in fact, sacrifice so much for the peace that followed, but some had to sacrifice even more.
In Memoriam by Alice Winn. Alfred A. Knopf, March 2023.
Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite or kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.