Lovely War by Julie Berry
Categories: Historical Fiction, Romance, Mythology
First Publication Date: 4 February 2020
Synopsis: They are Hazel, James, Aubrey, and Colette. A classical pianist from London, a British would-be architect turned soldier, a Harlem-born ragtime genius in the U.S. Army, and a Belgian orphan with a gorgeous voice and a devastating past. Their story, as told by the goddess Aphrodite, who must spin the tale or face judgment on Mount Olympus, is filled with hope and heartbreak, prejudice and passion, and reveals that, though War is a formidable force, it’s no match for the transcendent power of Love.
Lovely War was a book I picked up because of the hype – I hardly ever pick up books because of Booktube recommendations, as they’re normally not the kind of books I enjoy, but this intrigued me – Greek gods telling a story from WWI to prove that Love and War always attract each other is a very interesting concept that could’ve gone very wrong very quickly. Reader, it did not go wrong at all.
The story starts cheesy, predictable and sugary, but I was really charmed by the writing style, the lovely characters and the gods’ bickering. As the story went on, it added layers of complexity, history, hope. This book really shines in the way it exposes white supremacy in those days, describing how Black troops were treated, their hopes, their dreams, their talent and bravery. Real life characters and fantastic historical research added a sense of grounding to this story (like the Jazz band members that eventually became war heroes) that it would otherwise lack with its rather outlandish premise with the gods and the overdone trope of “wartime lovers”.
By the way: it’s called “Lovely War” based on the (satirical?) song called “Oh! it’s a lovely war”. I think this is rather common knowledge but I didn’t know! I frowned at the title and it in fact stopped me from getting it before, when I first heard of it (thank you again, Booktube, for hammering my head with gushing over this book).
This was just really, really good and I looked forward to reading it all day for the two or three days it took me to finish it. The short chapters also make this such a fluid, easy read. There’s enough sweetness, love and bravery in this book to that I feared it would be too saccharine for my taste, but it turned out that this balanced the horrors of war, racism and white supremacy in the story, so that reading about such heavy things never felt overwhelming. If you are looking for a charming story that has it all, look no further: Lovely War is a gem.