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This Is How I’d Love You by Hazel Woods

Source: Penguin
Paperback, 320 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

This Is How I’d Love You by Hazel Woods is a WWI novel set in 1917 that demonstrates the power of the written word.  New York Times columnist Sacha Dench, who graciously agrees to be a pen-pal and chess opponent to Charles Reid, is forced to resign from his position as sentiment in the United States leans more toward entering the war than remaining isolated from it.  He and his daughter, Hensley, leave quickly for Hillsboro, New Mexico, to take up the residence of a former mine supervisor.  Dench’s letters to Reid are philosophical debates about the justice of the war and its final outcome, but they are also a test of wills on a chess board that mirror those tensions.  Hensley is intrigued by the letter and utterly infatuated with a play director in New York City, but when she’s forced to decide between staying in New York with her brother or go to New Mexico, she chooses to leave.  Like the notes in the margins of her father’s letters, her life is lived on the outskirts of the proper role she is meant to play as a young 17-year-old woman without a mother.

“Mr. Dench has taken one of Charles’s pawns in the third move of the game, their bishops facing one another and the next move of utter importance.  Charles must be wary of the temptation to play too aggressively, putting his own pieces at risk in the next turn, which, he senses, is probably his opponent’s strategy.  A classic lure.  But playing like this, without body language or eye contact, is a new challenge.” (page 5 ARC)

It is striking how Woods uses the game of chase to depict the art of war on many levels, from the war between Dench and Reid’s competing philosophies to the difficulties in playing chess without the social cues to guide him as they would in hand-to-hand combat.  Reid is not so much a soldier as an ambulance driver from the United States who signed up to make something of his life, rather than live the life expected of him by his rich parents.  While he finds his actions independent, he is also aware as the war goes on just how foolhardy the decision may have been.  Feeling adrift on foreign fronts, Reid holds onto Dench’s letters and later the secret correspondence he has with Hensley as a lifeline.  But her life is far from as simple as she would like him to believe in their forced exile.

“By the end, the lead had become so dull that his signature is hardly more than a thick looping smudge.  Even so, Hennie moves her index finger across the page, mimicking the script, slowing especially over his name, until she can trace his signature perfectly.  Inhabiting his body, exiting her own, she crouches down under the table, imaging the cramped feel of the cellar, the roughness of chapped lips, the stale smell of urine on her clothes, the sound of artillery just outside.”  (page 71 ARC)

Hensley is living in the world of their letters as much as he is, but soon she is forced to make a choice — not once, but twice — that could change the course of her life forever.  This Is How I’d Love You by Hazel Woods explores the power of letters, the devastation of war and grief, and the societal pressures to which we can succumb or fight against.  Woods has made WWI vivid and gruesome as it must have been, demonstrating the irreparable harm that soldiers may face but also the inner strength it requires for them to move forward and to continue doing so even when they return home.  Expectations should be their own and not imposed upon by others, and only through compassion and love can these men soldier onward.

About the Author:

HAZEL WOODS lives in New Mexico with her husband and two children.

30th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

20th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; (Set in France)

 

 

 

 

25th book (WWI) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

 

 

 

 

 

63rd book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.

  • Anna

    I like that the book is more than just the letters. I’m still reading it, though. Glad to see you liked it.

  • Ti Reed

    I miss the days when people wrote letters too but I am tired of seeing them used in books to tell a story. SO many books use this method of telling a story, don’t you think?

    • There are a lot of books using this method, but in this one, it wasn’t overdone. It really added to this story. I think it was integrated well

  • bermudaonion(Kathy)

    I miss the days when people wrote letters. This sounds wonderful.