The End of Innocence is a story that plays off in WWI, 1914. It is an unlikely love story that plays off during war time, a love story between Helen Brooks and Wils Brandl. The relationship between Helen and Wils are unlikely, because these two lovers are from opposing sides. Helen Brooks, who has a passion for writing and poetry, is the daughter of wealthy, upper class parents who, unlike the common practice of women during that time, is to attend college. She gets offered to attend an editing class at Harvard where she is the only female student in attendance. This is where she meets Wils for the second time. Prior to them taking a class together, she met him at a dance, where he very eloquently “insulted” her and therefore she does not like him very much. She is however enamored with his cousin Riley, but that does not last very long.
Wils is a German poet, the son of a countess and a well-known Bavarian poet. His mother has summoned him back to Germany to fight in the war, but Wils has absolutely no interest in doing so. He chooses to stay at Harvard and continue his studies despite the growing contention between the local and the German students. His best friend was killed and Wils, who is accused of being a spy, believed that one of the students is responsible for it.
During their studies, Helen and Wils become friends and later fall in love. However, as all wartime love stories would have it, Wils has to leave to fight in the war, leaving behind a heartbroken Helen. Him and his cousin has to fight in the war and because of Riley’s British ancestry, the two cousins are fighting on opposing sides.
What drew me to this novel is the subject matter. I love reading war time stories, but I mostly gravitate towards WWII stories. Novels I’ve read that are based on WWI and the Spanish Civil war are minimal and for that reason I was very excited to pick up this book. The story focuses on the conflict and history of WWI, but not to a great extent, which will make this story enjoyable to read for those who are not into heavy historical fiction, but would like to read a story set in WWI.
The story draws you in with it’s beautiful writing, almost poetic, which of course was to be expected with the two main characters being aspiring poets. The author describes Wils and Riley’s experience fighting in the war in such moving detail, that those parts of the novel are my favourite by far. Needless to say, with all great wartime love stories, this one does not end well. I loved reading this thought-provoking novel; however I felt that the end of the novel came too soon. I wanted more, but despite my wants and needs, this is a novel I am glad I read.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley, for review consideration