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I Wish This War Were Over

By (author) Diana O'Hehir
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Vintage Publishing, London, United Kingdom
Imprint: Chatto & Windus
Published: 4th Apr 1985
Dimensions: w 140mm h 220mm
Weight: 483g
ISBN-10: 0701129530
ISBN-13: 9780701129538
Barcode No: 9780701129538

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Kirkus US
With antic eloquence, this fine first novel explores a time of "agitation" - of damaging parental love, sheltering sex, wraiths of shame and hope - while conjuring up the WW II-homefront world of loose ends and steam-whorled railroad terminals. California widow Selma Reynolds, once a Renoir-beautiful free spirit and extravagantly loving mother, has - ever since her husband opted to die for the Spanish Loyalists - become a drunk, progressively more noisy and unstrung. So daughters Helen and Clara have been persuaded to see Mother onto a bus, shunting her off to a job in Washington, D.C. Now, however, 19-year-old Helen - guilt-ridden - is off on a train to get Mother back. And on the first train-ride (soldiers twisted in sleep, the smell of oil, dust, sweat, gum), she meets up with Mother's ex-boyfriend John O'Connell - a cocky, 40-ish labor organizer, talking on the upswing. Fused to O'Connell by a mutual, releasing violence, Helen spends two weeks with him in a cheap Chicago hotel - after seeing her earnest suitor Will, who wants to get married. (But wars are no time for resolutions: "we lived only now, just to be chaotic and creating energy.") Then Helen reaches Washington - and Mother, in a fleabag basement apartment: she's not working; she has a gun, a bottle under the bed; she bakes cakes and wetly rejoices at length that her "little girl" hasn't deserted her. Helen, staying at the Y, aches for O'Connell - following him to a Union Hall and his sister's house in West Virginia. And, while Mother drives Will off for good with a flaming sword of drunken righteousness, amid the acrid odor of burnt cake. . . Helen just lets things happen. But then events jerk forward: Helen believes she's pregnant; O'Connell ("a particular American brand of hope") begins to make decisions; yet the war is about over. . . so it only remains for the final obliteration, the parting shot. Alive with the sights and smells of austere, icy landscapes, with a vivid sense of minds and bodies in transit: a remarkable novel, genuinely poetic in concept and execution. (Kirkus Reviews)