Teen Review: If You Go Away

August 1, 2017 | Teen Blogger

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  If you go away book cover
If You Go Away is Adele Parks’ second historical fiction book after Spare Brides. It focuses on two characters named Howard Henderson and Vivian Owens before and during WWI.  

Vivian is initially a superficial young woman, but remains likable. Lines such as this may paint her as shallow: “Vivian liked rich people, properly rich". She lives in London and must find a husband; Nathaniel Thorpe is the ideal catch to her mother and herself. Unfortunately, an incident at a society event crushes her dreams and changes everything.

Howard is a young playwright, who is trying to write the one play that will win him a spot on the world stage. The depth and complexities of his character are revealed throughout the book.

World War I, which breaks out on Vivian’s wedding day, changes their world forever.

Vivian is, to her dismay, moved to a farm in the countryside, where Aubrey believes she will be safe.

Howard joins a Daily Mail reporter to write articles about the battles. To do this, he must come face to face with the war. This experience shapes him into a “conchie”, someone unwilling to fight.

He sees his friends die in gruesome ways, for a war he realizes is senseless. He comes to hate the war and refuses to enlist. Popular opinion was that he was a coward for refusing to fight “for King and country”. Despite this, he stands to his position. For daring to do so, he's put on a trial that is almost certainly going to end with his death sentence.

Parks deserves applause for writing this book, because rarely do books focus on the men who didn’t want to go to war. We are usually given the impression that men rushed to enlist, to do their duty and fight for their country. This is partly true, because the beginning of World War I did create a storm of men eager to head to war. But the truth is that most of these men were seeking the glory that they had heard about, the parades and medals. Others were seeking the money offered to soldiers, others an adventure. Some were drafted. This was the same case in WWII, although it must be said that most of the soldiers had to be drafted. In fact, Canada went through a crisis near the later years of the second world war because we didn’t have enough men signing up. Does this mean that Canadian men were cowards?