Life Class

Published By: Doubleday

Book Category: Fiction, Historical

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Reviewed by Carrie Spellman

In the spring of 1914 war hovers on the edges of England. Feared by some and eagerly, sometimes morbidly, anticipated by others. For Paul Terrant, Elinor Booke, and Kit Neville, current and past students, respectively, of the Slade School of Fine Art, the focus of life is still on themselves, their art, and each other.

Paul lacks confidence in both himself and his art, and is contemplating leaving Slade. However, lack of options, and Elinor, keep him mired in indecision. Determined to be independent, but still extremely vulnerable, Elinor can’t seem to decide how define her place in the world. Neville appears to lack no confidence in anything, be it himself, his art, or his importance. Both boys want Elinor, though their interest in her seems to be a reflection of how they see themselves. Elinor enjoys the attention, to a point, but refuses to be defined by her relationship to any one man.

When the war comes to England, everyday concerns are tossed to the back burner. The boys volunteer for the Red Cross and Elinor tries to avoid the war in every way possible. The search for self and love continues, but now it will be defined by action more than by conscious decision.

Part one of the book is almost stilted, which while befitting the characters and their states of mind, is somewhat awkward to read. Part two flows much more comfortably, and allows for much more involvement with the characters.

Overall, it’s an interesting and sometimes poignant look at the affects of war on the lives of once average people. Regular life still continues in the midst of madness, inspiration can come at the most unexpected time and place, and greatness can sometimes be much more simple than what we imagine. The most important classes about life usually happen in the midst of living.

Armchair Interviews says: A trip back almost 100 years in time.

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