Helen Brooks is young woman in 1914 New England that is having troubles at home. Her mother is a suffragist that is getting arrested for distributing family planning materials and seems to care more about her causes than her daughter Helen. Her mother’s activities have caused her to lose the man that she thought would ask for her hand in marriage.
At this low point, Helen meets the dashing British playboy, Riley Spencer, and his German cousin Wils Brandl. Both are rowing teammates of her brother Peter. Helen is charmed by them both, but finds herself falling love with German poet Wils as they both attend a class at Harvard with the renowned Professor Copeland and have a shared love of poetry. World War I tears their class and world apart. Helen discovers that she has a hidden strength within her through the course of the novel.
I really enjoyed this novel. Helen is a very interesting character and I liked her metamorphosis through the novel. The WWI scenes were a tear-jerking narrative of the traumas of war. Wils Brandl was also a fascinating character – a poet who loves America and his British cousin, but who must fight for his country and Kaiser.
I also thought it was intriguing that the novel is based on a plaque at the Memorial Chapel at Harvard commemorating students that died fighting for Germany in WWI. The afterward and questions with the author at the end of the novel also gave more insight into this and author Allegra Jordan’s fascination with this plaque and history that inspired the novel. I will have a wonderful guest blog with author Allegra Jordan posted next week. There were also book club questions at the end of the book as well, The End of Innocence would make a great book club selection.
Overall, The End of Innocence is an excellent historical fiction novel set in WWI with a unique premise and intriguing characters. I highly recommend it!
Click on this link to read an excerpt of the novel and for a chance to win a copy!
Book Source: Review Copy from Sourcebooks – Thanks!