Review: LOVE'S CIVIL WAR by Victoria Glendinning

I’ve always enjoyed epistolary novels and non-fiction books. There’s something about them that I find easy to read and I feel almost guilty as if I were reading someone’s secret diary and thoughts meant only for them. This is certainly true of Love’s Civil War since it is comprised of the letters Elizabeth Bowen wrote to Charles Ritchie, a Canadian diplomat, and his diary entries that encompass his life in Canada and abroad. Charles Ritchie was a well-known diarist and had several diaries published in his lifetime, but as to letters to Elizabeth, according to the dust jacket, “Charles did not keep his letters to her, which were returned to him after her death.”

The book begins with Ritchie’s diary in February 1941. He writes about his social life and about meeting Elizabeth, a married, successful author who divides her time between Bowen Court, her family’s ancestral home in Ireland, and England. From her letters and his diary entries, the reader gets the chronicle of their friendship and budding love affair. Still, (and even with my tendency to enjoy this type of book) it takes a bit of work to get pulled into the story. I think that may be because it is non-fiction and the author could only do so much with the material she had to work with. Despite that, I really enjoyed this book. I liked the atmosphere it evoked during the war and reading about the other well-known people that Elizabeth knew.

It is sad and more than a little bittersweet that their love for each other endured for 30 years it could never be made ‘official’ due to their other-halves. It begs the question that if it was possible, would they have married?

Footnotes are used extensively throughout the book. I found these cumbersome at first, but quickly got used to them as they provided a lot of information about the places, people and events that Elizabeth and Ritchie referred to. There are eight pages of photos which I liked – my only complaint is that there weren’t more.


bermudaonion on June 15, 2009 at 1:54 PM said...

I love books like that too. I think I have some voyeuristic tendencies, because I love memoirs too.

Staci on June 15, 2009 at 10:54 PM said...

These types of books are some of my I must get my hands on a copy of this!!!


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