All's Fair in Love and War

It's been a while since I've written a long, individual review! And honestly, it's been a long time since I've loved a book so much that I simultaneously wanted to push everyone to read it and keep it all to myself. Berry's All the Truth That's In Me is one of my all-time favorite books, one that I've read and re-read in multiple formats over the years. But somehow, I didn't know about her March 2019 release, Lovely War, until after it came out. 

I read Lovely War in April of last year, fell deeply in love with it... but couldn't bring myself to review it. Why? Because I didn't even know where to begin! In Jane Austen's Emma, Mr. Knightley tells the heroine, “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.” I've always loved that quote, and it perfectly encapsulates how I feel about this particular book. I've shared my 21 favorite books of 2019, and this one is at the very top of that list.

Lovely War primarily focuses on two couples during World War I. Hazel is a talented pianist who meets James, a solider dreaming of becoming an architect, at a party in London. Their feelings develop quickly but have a surprising depth. Then, James is sent off to war... Aubrey is a Harlem ragtime musician headed for the trenches as a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment. While there, Aubrey meets Colette – a Belgian refugee serving in the YMCA relief hut in France. What does the future hold for these star-crossed lovers?

That's for Aphrodite to tell you. Yes, I mean that Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. Thirty years after these four characters meet, in the midst of a new world war, she is caught in an affair. Her husband, Hephaestus, discovers her with Ares in a Manhattan hotel room and decides she will be put on trial. In her defense, she decides to tell the stories of these four lovers. She has a little help from Apollo, Hades, and even Ares himself. As you can imagine, there is music and death and war and brokenness – but there is love and beauty, too. How will their stories end? Well, you'll have to read to find out...

Despite being relatively unfamiliar with Greek mythology, this book sparked my desire for more. How lucky was I to have Circe by Madeline Miller waiting in the wings? I read that two weeks later and loved it, too. (Now give me more!) When I read the summary for Lovely War, I wasn't sure if Berry could pull it off. Combining historical fiction with Greek mythology seemed risky. But oh man, the end result proved that it's a creative twist like that that makes a book truly epic! I could not stop raving about it after I finished and ended up re-reading it via audio, too. It was my last read of the year – the perfect way to close 2019 and enter the new decade on a reading high.

It was the kind of historical fiction book where I learned so much – about ragtime music, the treatment of African Americans during World War I, life in the trenches and the resulting PTSD, and what it might be like to serve with the YMCA on the front. You can see Berry's research in all aspects of the novel, and I adored the Author's Note at the end where she expands on some of the things mentioned in the book. And, as with Circe, it made me want to pull out Mythology by Edith Hamilton and read all the myths associated with the gods and goddesses I just met.

So, you've got the research aspect. But what else did I love? ONLY EVERYTHING. These characters absolutely stole my heart. I was so emotionally invested in what was happening to them, and it took all of my self-control to keep from racing through the book to find out if they were all okay in the end. Because honestly, this book accomplished that rare feat of being impossible to put down but also being something I wanted to slowly savor. Berry's writing was just so gorgeous and such a pleasure to read that I didn't want to miss one carefully chosen turn of phrase.

Although categorized as Young Adult, I certainly felt that it had crossover appeal. Everything about it is so artfully crafted and beautifully written – something that I want to push on every reader I meet. Because even though it won't be the right fit for every reader, I wish that I could make everyone love it as much as I do. I wish that I could give everyone who pick it up that magical, delighted feeling I had as I turned each page and realized that I was reading a book that I'd never forget. You know how sometimes people will ask, "What's a book you wish you could go back and read for the first time?" Even in the middle of this one, I was aching at the thought of it being over. 

The story itself felt so cruel and heartbreaking while still being so romantic and hopeful. I was tearing up, swooning, laughing, raging, and experiencing every possible emotion while reading. Do I really need to keep raving? Have I said enough to convince you to read it? It was a rare reading experience, one that I didn't even expect. And since I re-read it at the end of the year, I can attest to the fact that it's even better the second time around. The audiobook was fantastic – a full cast that brought the characters to life in the best way and gave me even more to love about it. In case it isn't obvious: I highly, highly recommend Lovely War in any format!

So Quotable
“I am so often moved by souls whose first concern is not for their own lost years, but for the grief their passing will cause to those they love. It's more common than you might think. The most ordinary mortal bodies are housed by spectacular souls.”

Release Date: March 5, 2019 | Publisher: Penguin; Viking Books for Young Readers
Pages: 480 pages | Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover


  1. This isn't something I knew about either until you posted about it. It's something that has been at the back of my mind to read, but your review has made it much more of a priority. I am so excited for it!

    1. That makes me so happy to hear! I hope you love it if/when you end up reading it.

  2. I loved this book so dang much! It's so beautifully written, and Julie Berry's choice of narrator(s), her characters, their relationships and their stories were perfection.


© So Obsessed With • Theme by Maira G.