REVIEW: All the Things We Lost by Liz Trenow
Once upon a time I would have trusted him with my life, but the Alfie I fell in love with seems to have disappeared, and I’m afraid I’ll never find him again.
1918 – As victory bells sound across London, Rose Barker waits for her darling husband Alfie to come home. But, injured by a shell in the final days of the war, Alfie struggles with terrifying nightmares, and the more Rose tries to help him the further he sinks.
2014 – Years later, Rose’s great-granddaughter Jess returns from Afghanistan, where she served as a front-line medic. Constantly reminded of those she could not save, Jess’s relationship is crumbling, and her life is falling apart.
But just as Jess is at her lowest, she receives an unexpected gift: the diaries of her great-grandmother Rose. And as she turns the pages, Jess discovers a story of enduring love—and hope—which will change her life forever.
Dear Ms. Trenow,
After reading several of your books, I’ve learned to dive in and hang on because things are going to get emotional and a bit angsty before the ride is over. Though this is more women’s fiction than romance, there is a heartwarming ending for one couple and a potential one for the other.
Jess Merton has worked towards becoming a paramedic for years but the loss of a friend in Afghanistan leads her to enlist in the Army. She hopes to help others survive where James didn’t. It’s a rough and tumble world and her tour is filled with the expected boredom broken by moments of sheer terror but she makes it home and has the satisfaction of knowing she did save lives. She thinks she’s fine, looking forward to reuniting with her boyfriend Nate and joining the civvy ranks as a medic for the NHS. Except, things don’t go according to plan.
In 1918 Rose Barker eagerly waits for the return of her young husband Alfred from the war in France. She and her friends almost didn’t believe that the armistice was real but now that it’s official, she longs to start her married life.
A brief telegram from Alfie reveals he’s been injured but it’s not until she and the family arrive at the hospital that Rose discovers what happened. When his leg doesn’t heal, amputation is required to stave off gangrene. Coupled with his disability is the fact that millions in England are now out of work. But Rose soon discovers that his leg isn’t the only wound Alfie has.
Two women in the same family, separated by decades and trying to work their way through the horror and trauma left after coming home from war. Will they find their way or is the damage too severe?
I’ll not lie and say this book was easy to read. It flowed and I was caught up in discovering what would happen to Rose, Jess and their families but the road is dark at times and there were moments when my heart sank as things seemed to go from bad to worse. It definitely put me through an emotional wringer.
But I also came away with a better understanding of what combat veterans deal with once they are back home and trying to fit into civilian life. Jess has it hard enough in 2014 but poor Alfie and Rose have to try to manage with little support or understanding of what plagues Alfie plus a country full of unemployed men and strikes. Rose wonders more than once, is this what all those boys – including her two brothers – fought and died for? As they are working class Londoners I felt a few, faint whiffs of “Call the Midwife” in how they are happy with a tiny flat and so little compared to what we expect today.
No punches are pulled in describing how the relationships falter and begin to crumble under the weight of PTSD and the lengths Jess and Alfie go to self medicate and doctor themselves. Just when I almost despaired, tiny rays of hope filtered in and at last things began to turn around. What Jess and her mother discover in the family albums and diary Rose left behind revealed the older HEA while the realization Jess has about her own life lead me to hope she and Nate can find their way as well. B