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Book Review: Lovely War

October 26, 2020

Spoilers for A Lovely War by Julie Berry

Greek mythology has always been a favorite of mine. And I love it when it is reimagined or brought into the modern-day. What’s even better, is that mythology is used as a frame story for a deeper narrative about WWI, love, death, and loss.

Aphrodite tells the story in order to avoid trial on Olympus. Hephaestus caught her and Ares cheating on him and he expects some kind of justice. Aphrodite explains that as the goddess of love, she is incapable of truly being loved by anyone, or truly loving anyone. I think that as her story progresses, it becomes clear that she loves the people she helps and she loves her work.

The story revolves around four different perspectives: Hazel, James, Colette, and Aubrey. It deals with racial prejudice, shell-shock, and the atrocities of war. It shows the breadth of human emotion from the elation of falling in love to the fear of losing loved ones, either to death or from being rejected. There is the bittersweet beauty of falling love again after losing someone, and rising tension as the world tries to tear people apart.

It’s beautifully tragic and tragically beautiful, and it ends with a melancholy hope. For once, the characters make it out alive and start families, but of course, to the gods and goddesses, that isn’t the end of the story. They know that they and their children still have to live through the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, and WWII. The book is a testament to the human spirit.

It’s funny reading it now, as opposed to last year when it came out. Right now, we are seeing more than ever how the human spirit can adapt and endure, or how it shrivels depending on the person. I’m not saying that what we are going through is as terrible as either of the world wars, but I think we are experiencing a lot of the same issues. Racial prejudice has never gone away. Families and lovers torn apart by political divides and the pandemic. People trying to live their lives to the best that they can, despite the situation.

I love how the book is told from the perspective of each of the gods, and that they give their own perspectives on the situation and how they affected it. Berry does a brilliant job of differentiating characters and voice. Of course, that could have been aided by the audiobook version I listened to. The characters were marvelously voiced and had such flavor and nuance.

This book isn’t as gruesome as Between Shades of Gray, but it does still have some dark themes and violence. I’d recommend it for ages 13 and up.

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