Summary: At the height of World War II, immortals Ares and Aphrodite are caught by the latter’s husband in a Manhattan hotel room. When Hephaestus puts his wife on trial, Aphrodite spins a tale that transports the gods twenty-five years earlier: the story of four morals whose lives are intertwined in the final year of World War I. They are: Hazel, a British pianist; James, a dreaming architect turned soldier; Aubrey, a jazz musician in the US Army and Colette, a Belgian orphan with a beautiful voice and tragic past. Filled with hope and heartbreak, their stories reveal that love can be a powerful force that rivals that of war.
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
Julie Berry’s Lovely War was one of my most anticipated books of 2019. I love almost all kinds of historical fiction, but books about the World Wars always have resonated with this bookish soul. I’m very excited to say that Lovely War now has a new home on a different 2019 reading list: my 2019 favorite books! This emotional and romantic story following four mortals (did I mention yet that this book is narrated by Greek gods and goddesses??) caught up in World War I captured my heart and more.
Lovely War is a unique take on the World War I, being that the book is narrated by Aphrodite and other Greek gods. I admit that I was both excited and nervous about this aspect going in, but thankfully, Julie Berry completely delivered. I loved the gods’ roles in each character’s story. Their narration and chapters together brought on all types of emotions, from humor to somberness (never would have I imagined the gods needing a tissue or handkerchief!). While the story focuses on World War I, I liked how Aphrodite and the gods tell their story from their present, World War II. It was interesting to see the parallels between both wars and time periods.
Even without her historical note at the end, Lovely War just felt so authentic. From the start, Julie Berry’s research is quite evident. I enjoyed how she incorporated elements about the war that I haven’t read in YA historical fiction, such as the prejudice and cruelty faced by black soldiers. In addition, one of the reasons why I think this book resonated with me so much is her beautiful writing style! I found myself not being able to part from this book, telling myself to keep reading one more chapter after another past my bedtime. The writing is filled with emotion, with the occasional funny bit from the gods or our four main characters- Hazel, James, Aubrey and Colette.
Now let’s get to my personal favorite part of Lovely War: the love & relationships! From the get-go, Hazel and James absolutely captured my heart. I rooted for them from beginning to end and through their ups-and-downs. I really enjoyed Aphrodite’s little nudges in their journey as a couple. I found myself gasping out loud at their most crucial moments and praying to the gods that they would make it. While I loved them all, Hazel was my favorite character, for her passion for the piano and her journey in the war (another unique aspect, as her and Colette begin as YMCA volunteers). Aubrey and Colette also captured my fangirl feels. Although Hazel and James haven’t had the easiest of lives, Aubrey and Colette’s hardships made their story all the more real and emotional.
Overall, Julie Berry’s Lovely War is an unputdownable, sweeping story about four individuals whose lives are forever changed in the last year of World War I. Julie Berry nicely juxtaposes the war’s darker moments, like James’ time on the battlefields, to sweeter times, like reunions in Paris. Aphrodite and the gods’ role in the story added another rich narrative and made this book all the more unique. Lovely War is easily one of my favorite books of 2019 and makes me want to pick up historical fiction even more!
This review is based on an advance readers’ edition. By no means did receiving this book affect my thoughts or opinion.
Is Lovely War on your TBR? What are some of your favorite historical fiction books? Share in the comments!