Member Reviews

NGL, this one started kinda rough for me. Very chaotic beginning. It took me about a hundred pages to get settled in. There were just too many names thrown at me from the first page and then the time jumping. It was too much too fast for me. But then for the remainder of part 1 and some way into part 2, this story really began to shine when the spotlight FINALLY really began to focus on the love story. But then the twist. And then the story just hit a hard, deep lull. And the picture the author painted of POW camps was just so unrealistic. It came across as like the characters were just away at summer camp, pulling pranks and having a laugh. But, then we finally got out of that and the last part was just absolutely beautiful. But, my biggest concern with this story is the glossing over of the difficulties of being gay at this time in our history. It’s alluded to but no one in this book acts like it was a serious threat. Sadly it was as much a threat to a young gay man’s life as the war but it was glossed over. But, overall, still a beautiful story and I would recommend to a lot of people.

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This book utterly broke me, and I cannot stop recommending it to everyone I know. The story follows two boarding school boys who are in love during WWI. This is not a easy read given the content, but cannot recommend it highly enough! Can't wait to see what Winn writes next.

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WWI novels are a dime a dozen, so I was looking for this novel to do something a bit more unique. Sadly though I didn't find that to be the case. This is just a matter of personal preference for me: I struggle with traditional WWI novels that focus on the actual war, and In Memoriam was one of them. I was hoping the romance would save it, and the romance was nice, but overall this book was a bit of a miss for me.

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What a stunning achievement. I’ve never read a soldier-focused war novel like it. Winn captures emotion so well and had such strong characters. Even those with small moments felt real to me. So beautiful and crushing.

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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for granting me free access to the advanced digital copy of this book.

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It's fully a WWI novel, so if that's among your interests, then this is for you. Unfortunately, it's not among mine, but I gave it a chance anyway.

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This unique M/M story set during World War 1 follows two privileged teenagers who struggle to acknowledge their feelings for each other. As war erupts, they abandon their comfortable lives for the battlefield. Titled after their school's newspaper's 'In Memoriam' section, the book explores realism, encompassing poignant emotions, death, gore, mental health issues, and vivid depictions of injuries and weapons. Despite these elements, the book offers a refreshing departure from overly romanticized narratives. The author skillfully captures the harsh realities of the war, even educating readers about lesser-known aspects. The well-written prose, at times poetic, beautifully portrays the slow-burning and exquisite romance between the main characters.

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In Memoriam is such a beautifully written story about two young men who love each other during World War I (or The Great War). Everything about this book so well done. The characters were wonderfully written and Alice Winn was able to make us feel so much for every single one of them. She also did a terrific job with researching WWI. I felt like I was right there in the trenches suffering with the young men. In Memoriam is an absolute tearjerker but it is worth every single tear. I highly, highly recommend you pick this one up. I never read a book quite like this one.

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When war begins in 1914 Ellwood and Gaunt are seventeen, in their last year at their British boarding school. Almost immediately their school newspaper begins to list the deaths of its alumni. Pressured by family, patriotism, girls handing out white feathers, and his own internal demons, Gaunt enlists, and Ellwood follows him. The enlistment age is nineteen but they and boys even younger are commissioned as lieutenants and sent to the front in France to command men older than they are in an endless battle with the German troops across No Man’s Land, where bones protrude from the ground and a particular decaying body is a landmark.
In Memoriam is both a war novel and a love story of men who are not allowed to love each other; marriage to “nice women” is what society demands, a path as clearly laid out as the one to the front. But the war demolishes all assumptions, and the lives of everyone in it, including the survivors who come home reeling from shell shock that would now be called PTSD.
In Memoriam is a shattering novel written with an assurance even more impressive because it is the author’s debut book. The narrative moves between the time when Ellwood and Gaunt were boys in school rather than boys mangled by war, and the grisly realities of the front, where buried bodies surface through the endless mud and the average British officer lasts three months before he’s killed or wounded. There are flashes of dark humor and deeply thought out characterization to keep the love story at the heart of the novel and ground us amid the bleak horror of the war. Highly recommended.

Amanda Cockrell

This review ran in the May 2023 issue of Historical Novel Review

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The premise of this story was extremely inviting; however, I did not enjoy the relationship between the characters. While the timing of this book would have made it hard for the characters to be open about their sexuality, I found their relationship toxic and unfulfilling. The writing was on point, and the weaving between each character's story was solid. However, it just left me hoping for more love between the two main characters.

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A heartrending romance between two young soldiers set against the horrific backdrop of WWI.
Alice Winn's remarkable debut, In Memoriam, opens in 1914 at Preshute College, a fictional British boarding school for wealthy young men. World War I has just begun, and each student longs to enlist; in their youthful ignorance they romanticize battle and dream of committing acts of daring-do in the name of God and country. Two such innocents are close friends Henry Gaunt and Sidney Ellwood. The 18-year-olds are attracted to each other but can't express their feelings, each believing the other doesn't reciprocate the sentiment. Gaunt, whose family has strong German ties, enlists at his mother's urging to prove his family's loyalty to England, and Ellwood follows him soon thereafter, even as casualties mount among their classmates already fighting on the other side of the Channel. The boys are soon disillusioned as they're exposed to the horrors of trench warfare and their own deaths seem imminent.

The author's descriptions of the WWI battlefront leave an indelible image. As Gaunt arrives in the trenches for the first time, he finds, "The smell was overwhelming, but worse than that were the bits of corpses sticking out of the walls. The men had evidently tried to bury them, but in the rain the earth did not hold together. Feet and hands and faces poked at him as he walked by." Ellwood observes that the sandbags "were a sickening mixture of sand and gut-smeared earth. They reeked of decomposing flesh, and sometimes would burst open, showering passers-by with gore and maggots." The story is filled with men ordered to their deaths out of petty revenge or simple ignorance, with officers often displaying a callous disregard for the young lives wasted for no good reason. The author realistically conveys the various ways conflicts like this can leave someone permanently scarred, both physically and emotionally. As an anti-war book it can't be beat, comparing favorably to classics like All Quiet on the Western Front.

As well-written as the novel's battle scenes are, its highlight is the love story between Ellwood and Gaunt, and the dynamic between the two sets up the primary tension in the narrative. Winn completely captures Ellwood and Gaunt's terrible longing for each other and the ache of their unexpressed love. The novel is heartbreaking at times, peppered with misunderstandings and missed opportunities: "Ellwood did not come to him, and Gaunt didn't know how to ask him to." As death rains down around the pair, readers yearn for them to tell each other how they feel before it's too late, and we're constantly reminded how painfully young these men are.

A few aspects of the book don't quite meet the high bar set by most of the narrative. Winn goes out of her way to illustrate how WWI was experienced from many viewpoints, such as how some women supported the war effort, the pride and pain parents felt in seeing their sons enlist, how different classes experienced war, and the ordeal that those wounded in battle underwent. While most of these perspectives are exceptionally well-written and seem dead-on accurate, a long section about a POW camp for officers comes across as a bit cartoonish -- a little reminiscent of a sitcom – and seems out of step with the intensity of other chapters. In addition, those around Ellwood and Gaunt seem to know they're gay but are completely accepting – even encouraging – of their love for other men. This seems anachronistic, particularly when other scenes depict men committing suicide rather than enduring the "disgrace" of being outed (until the late 1960s, sexual relations between men were illegal in Great Britain and could lead to imprisonment). Finally, the author employs heavy foreshadowing in the first half of the novel that seems manipulative and largely unnecessary. But although I was aware of these flaws, they did not impact my very high opinion of the novel, and I expect most readers will be more than happy to overlook them.

In Memoriam is one of the most poignant novels I've come across in quite some time, and it made a lasting impression on me. Winn's elegant writing and emotionally intense tableaux make this one a winner. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for top-notch historical fiction or a truly affecting love story.

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QUICK TAKE: I'm like one of three people who liked, but didn't love this book. Not sure Winn nailed the relationship at the center of this story, and I really struggled with the revolving door of characters introduced and subsequently killed in horrible, violent ways. It might be realistic in its depiction, but it was tough to read, and I ultimately wasn't in the headspace for this one.

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This was an unflinching and deeply romantic book, centered around the relationship between two queer young men, friends from boarding school, who both enlist in the British army during WW1.

On the whole this was really, really good. The writing is gorgeous and creative – there’s a lengthy epistolary section near the beginning which I adored, and the author does a really excellent job of walking a very fine line between the inevitable tragedy and horror of being a book about war, and the light background humor which makes it all bearable. The characters are all really vibrant and wonderfully realized, even those who make only brief appearances.

The plot felt a little oddly paced at times – in particular, the ending felt a little rushed – and there’s one major plot development which I think should have been done a little differently for maximum believability and emotional impact (no spoilers!) but those concerns were definitely outweighed by the brilliant characters and impactful presentation of the realities of war.

Oh, and one small note for the editors: if your author is putting ancient Greek quotations in their books, please please PLEASE accent them correctly! I hope this got fixed in the final copies (I have an ARC) but the accentuations on the ancient Greek quotes were very clearly done on a modern Greek keyboard instead of a polytonic (ancient) Greek one. It’s SO small, I know, but it DOES matter!

All in all, definitely recommended, but I’ll warn you to go in expecting to cry; thank you so much to Netgalley and Knopf for the ARC!

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A little better that 2 stars, "It was okay," and 3 stars, "I liked this book." Closer to BARELY okay, by which I was very surprised. I very much looked forward to this book long before it came out, and I thought this book was going to shine, as it had many elements that would have presupposed a very high rating from me. But I found the tale a monumental "failure-to-launch," which says a lot, and not in a good way, about an LGBTQ+ story set during WWI.

The worst part was the middle part, which read like a very bad mashup, I felt, of "Hogan's Heroes" and "The Great Escape." It was drudgery getting through this part, the book had already been disappointing before then, and so I barely made it to the finish line. That all said, there will be many who will love and cherish this book, but for my money, "The Absolutist" by John Boyne is a better read.

Many thanks to #NetGalley for a free e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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Alice Winn's In Memoriam is both heartbreaking and uplifting. It follows the lives of a group of British public (meaning private) school boys during WWI. There's immense privilege, unkindness, half-acknowledged affections, reconciliations, and the devastation of moving from imagining the glories of war to arriving at the front and witnessing one man after another die until it's one's own turn. At the heart of this novel are Gaunt and Ellsworth, close friends who have long been in love with each other—but because neither has the courage to acknowledge it, each is unaware of the other's feelings.

Right now, there seems to be a glut of WWII fiction. Moving back in time to WWI and that first "war to end all wars" somehow felt right. So many generations have their stories of cruel truths of celebrating war, and each teaches us the same lesson through very different details. In Memoriam gives us characters to care about deeply while keeping their limitations front and center—so we care, but aren't sure how much time we'd actually like to spend with them.

If you're up for a read that will likely have you in tears by the end, I strongly recommend In Memoriam.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own.

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Book review: 'In Memoriam' a haunting war-time love story
Ashley Riggleson Apr 1, 2023

The Netflix adaptation of “All Quiet on the Western Front” garnered a lot of critical attention, and some readers may be wondering where they should go next if they want to read more. Might I suggest Alice Winn’s début novel, “In Memoriam”? This beautiful book is guaranteed to move readers to the core.

As the novel opens, we follow two teenage boys called Ellwood and Gaunt as they finish their final year at boarding school. World War I has recently broken out. Gaunt, who is half German, objects to the war and does not want to be sent to the front. Ellwood, on the other hand, is excited to go, but he is not yet of age.

They are best friends, but Winn skillfully intimates that they could be something more. While it is clear to readers that the boys love each other, they have yet to explore that facet of their relationship. And when Gaunt, who is trying to hide his love for Ellwood and is pressured into enlisting, Ellwood struggles with his decision to honor his mother’s wishes and stay at home.

When Gaunt sends Ellwood a particularly morose letter from the front, Ellwood enlists immediately, and soon the two are together again. Gaunt is initially furious that Ellwood has left the safety of home, but after some time, they begin to find solace in each other once again. But neither can predict what the war has in store for them, or how the war will change them, and readers will be invested to the very end, waiting with bated breath to learn the fates of these formerly golden boys.

I have a lot of experience reading war literature from this period and while “In Memoriam” does a lot to honor the literature that has come before it, it also feels fresh. Winn, unsurprisingly, explores themes of love, loss, grief, and mental health on the front. She also shows readers how the war continues to impact these characters after the armistice.

While “In Memoriam” is an emotionally challenging novel, it is also one of the most moving books I have read in a long time. There is a lot of sadness, but Winn balances it with a lot of love and hope, and this moving portrait of two boys caught in the wrong time in history will not disappoint.

This review was originally printed in The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, VA.

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This fucking book. I honestly don’t know what I can say about this book that would do it justice so I’m gonna have to go with bullet points and we’ll see what happens:

- This is a DEBUT NOVEL. Somehow. It doesn’t read like a debut novel. It reads like Alice Winn has had about 200 years of writing practice already.
- This book is filled with some of the most gorgeous writing I’ve read in recent memory. If you liked Song of Achilles, In Memoriam has the same thing going for it where every line feels so intentional and perfectly crafted to make you feel so intensely for the characters.
- There is so much PINING in this book. I wouldn’t exactly call it slow burn because our main characters are so deep in their love for one another from the start, but the heartache is so intense right up to the final pages of the book.
- That said, the writing is also very raw and does not shy away from the brutality of WWI in the slightest. I read somewhere that Alice Winn drew inspiration from a multitude of primary sources from the war, and it really shows. You see each character respond to the trauma of war in different ways, and because it’s such a character-driven story, you feel each of those responses along with them.
- Alice Winn utilizes an in-universe newspaper to report the deaths of characters, and I cannot get over how smart of a choice this was. It forces you into the same head-space as the characters—you scan the pages to make sure the characters you’ve come to love are still alive, you feel relief if you don’t find their names, then you immediately feel guilt because there are so many other faceless dead boys on the page. It feels awful! Great stuff.
- Last thing: despite everything I said above, there are parts of this book that are genuinely funny, and that helped break up the absolutely roller coaster of emotion a bit.

Sorry this is incoherent. I loved this book so much, please read it. Thanks to Knopf for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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I've read that Alice Winn got the inspiration for this novel by reading the magazines from her old school, which listed the World War I dead in almost real time. The casualty list left very few families untouched, few friends left to mourn.

Winn focuses on two close friends who have been in love for some time but one doesn't know how to express it. Henry Gaunt enlists early in the war at his family's urging--he is half German and they face the anti-German backlash. He agrees, partly to escape the feeling he has for Sidney Ellwood, a lively, charming student who is in love with Gaunt, who is unaware of Ellwood's feelings. Gaunt writes letters to Ellwood that do not truthfully express the horrors he's experiencing, and Ellwood signs up.

This is a harrowing novel, so prepare yourself. The relationship between the two young men sound like classic romance, but put that in the trenches and a whole different dynamic emerges. And after the war, the grieving and wreckage.

Thanks to Knopf and NetGalley for a digital review copy of this beautifully written novel.

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I haven't cried so much reading a book in a long time. It's literary fiction set during WWI, but the romance between the two main characters is a big part of this story. The romance is beautiful, my heart ached for them.

This book is incredibly well written. It tells the story of two friends in an upper-class boarding school who are secretly in love with each other. One decides to enlist in the military and the other follows him to war. It's amazing how Winn can make us care so much about all the characters, not only Elly and Gaunt, but also others who suffer and lose their lives. There is a lot of gore and tragedy.

This book is truly one of a kind and I can't recommend it enough.

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this amazing book.
In Memoriam by Alice Winn was one I could not put down!
I do some work with Veterans and their families - some even from WW2! With that, I was very drawn to this book, and it did not disappoint. The historical details of war are right on point, and the untold, often unspoken stories of war and soldiers and their relationships are familiar to some I have heard throughout the years.
I felt it all in this book - grieving, sadness, a new understanding, humor, a personal concern for these characters who jump off the pages into reality, and much love.

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