Book Review: A Soldier’s Quartet
Reviewed by Toni Woodruff
A subtle and nuanced exploration on the human side of war
Colin Baldwin could have dove headfirst into the action sequences of war. He could have set the groundwork for the realities of World War I and kept us intrigued solely with the soldiers’ quest for survival and victory. But with A Soldier’s Quartet, he takes a different route.
And it’s all for the better.
Baldwin tells the nuanced story of a retired man in the 21st century (Conrad) who comes in contact with a letter describing the death of a son named Wolfgang Deppner.
While he could have let Wolf’s story remain unchecked, he’s a bit too tenacious of a human for that. With his eyes set on bringing a voice to the voiceless in history, Conrad searches for Wolfgang’s family, for a way to return this letter to its rightful owner and to help them put together their own family story across generations. Conrad would have been willing to take on this action on his own. There’s no doubt about that. He’s a caring and thoughtful man; but it sure does help his motivation that he keeps hearing Wolfgang’s voice—and seeing him too.
A Soldier’s Quartet is a gentle novel of love, loss, and family in the time of war. It’s a tale geared toward describing the hardships that humans go through in harrowing circumstances. Historical fiction lovers, especially those drawn to World War I, are really going to appreciate this story’s subtle fulfillment. It’s a war novel, yes, but it’s a human story first. I absolutely love the direction that Colin Baldwin takes on his way to telling this quiet but powerful tale.
While I usually talk of coincidence and fate in plot as negative aspects, they work wonders here. It’s not necessarily the action and motivation of the characters that drive this narrative forward—it’s more the nuanced discussion on loss and life that sets it apart. It’s a literary foray into who we are in impossible situations.
I love a lot of this novel if you can’t tell. It comes from the heart and envisions a future of connection between generations, but it has to be the subtlety of its storytelling that brings me the most satisfaction. Baldwin is constantly making the right small choices, like leaving a fence between neighbors unfinished to break down the barriers of their relationship. The only real downside I see here is small but noticeable; the use of exclamation points in dialogue runs rampant and makes these conversations often feel more unrealistic than they would be without them.
A Soldier’s Quarter is a truly special story of humanhood. History buffs who focus in on The Great War will have read stories of action and suspense before, but I’m not sure they’ll have read ones with quite as much heart as this one.
Genre: Historical Fiction / WWI
Print Length: 236 pages
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