Book Club emphasizes Veterans in November
Stripes Europe October 5, 2023
Everyone is welcome to join the UMGC Europe Book Club, no need to be a student or faculty member! We have been building a community that values diversity, empathy, and literary exploration since July 2020. Our mission is simple: to read literature, to create a reliable and safe community of readers, and, most importantly, to provide a space where resilience and empathy thrive. Whether you’re an avid reader or just looking to connect with fellow book enthusiasts, our club offers inclusive meaningful discussions.
Every Veterans Day, we pay tribute to those who have served our country with dedication and resolve. To commemorate this special occasion, the UMGC Europe Book Club has chosen “The Return of the Soldier” by Rebecca West as its Veterans Day book selection for its November 14 meeting at 12 CET via Zoom.
West’s World War I novel is one of the first to depict post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), then known and understood as “shell shock,” and the challenges of returning to civilian life after war. The entire community is invited to join our discussion of this important novel, which is widely available at no cost online.
The novel uniquely focuses on the domestic front, where West depicts what we already understand as a military community: that the aftermath of war so often takes place at home. “The Return of the Soldier” invites readers into a family’s home upon the return of a soldier from the Western Front of jagged barbwire and trenches. But we only catch glimpses of the battlefield, and, instead, we are led through a great house where doors to an empty nursery or a silent dining room open to another trauma or loss.
The Return of the Soldier remains a crucial novel in literary history for its depiction of a family’s struggle to make sense of the cultural upheavals caused by the Great War. West’s novel, a short but mighty piece of writing, documents how the Great War changed Western culture, revealing concerns that endure in our own nation.
The illusory joy of Captain Chris Baldry’s return and his struggle to make sense of his war experience demonstrate that the years 1914-1918 still matter today. The characters contend with mental health challenges and issues around veteran reintegration: concerns in our own nation and community. The book surges with the energy of characters desperate to return a veteran back to himself, his family, and his nation. Psychologists, neighbors, and extended family all march through the novel with one goal: to help this veteran. The novel is indeed a historical document, but anyone who reads it will immediately empathize with the characters; perhaps, we will even recognize ourselves.
The novel asks, how can we get Captain Baldry back home safely, in the same way that our community, reading together, welcomes home and honors our veterans. There are many ways to observe Veterans Day this year, but there’s a unique poignancy to a military community reading a novel set against the backdrop of historical WWI battlefronts like the Marne, Verdun, and the Somme.
Please join us in exploring this powerful narrative that tells the story of a veteran’s journey back home. Please visit our Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org for questions on how to join or how Book Club can facilitate other community reading events.