With this magnificent epic of World War II, Marge Piercy moves into territory that has long been the exclusive province of such writers as Norman Mailer, James Jones, and Herman Wouk. Never before has a leading woman writer written with such authority about the cataclysmic events and passions of war. Sweeping across the globe from the United States to Europe, from the North African campaign to New Zealand, from Japan to Palestine, GONE TO SOLDIERS brilliantly re-creates the atmosphere of the war-time capitals: the sexual abandon, the luxury and deprivation, the terror and excitement.
GONE TO SOLDIERS interweaves the stories of ten remarkable characters: Louise Kahan, a New York divorcee and writer of romances turned war correspondent… her ex-husband Oscar, a man who cannot let go of women, involved in intelligence for the OSS . . . Daniel Balaban, late of Shanghai and the Bronx, whose mission is to crack the Japanese codes. . . Bernice Coates, who escapes life as a servant to her father to fly fighters as a Women’s Air Force Service Pilot. . . her brother Jeff, a painter who parachutes into Nazi- occupied France to fight with the Resistance…Zachary Barrington Taylor, for whom war is the most exciting game, and seduction a close second… Jacqueline Levy-Monot, who leads Jewish children over the Pyrenees to safety and fights valiantly with the maquis… her sister Naomi, a troubled adolescent discovering her identity in a tangle of sex and racial violence… their cousin Ruthie Siegal, a touching young woman who tries to keep alive her love for Murray; a Marine in the Pacific war, while working on an assembly line in Detroit. . . . These are just some of the characters who wage memorable and passionate public and private battles, as war casts them into their ultimate dreams and nightmares, daring them to act out their brightest and darkest fantasies.
Evoking the brutalities endured by those struggling to survive, in foxholes, in the camps, on the home front, or with partisans, GONE TO SOLDIERS is a shattering and unforgettable reading experience.
“This book deserves to have an entire book written about it…a landmark piece of literary prose…in Piercy’s hands, that war is new again, in its awfulness, its quirkiness, the idiosyncratic peculiarities…this could be the most thorough and most captivating, most engrossing novel ever written about World War II.”
— Carolyn See, LA TIMES
“Piercy’s war takes on universality of a sort that Hemingway’s war, or Mailer’s war, could never have achieved…she has mastered a huge subject, dismantled a centuries-old sex barrier and widened our perceptions of both war and literature. All this in a good beach book makes GONE TO SOLDIERS a victory by any standards.”
“…what Marge Piercy has achieved with her stunning 703-page opus, GONE TO SOLDIERS, is unquestionably literature — a novel that moves as easily from battlefield to home front as it does from female to male perspective…Piercy is as much a poet as a novelist, with a poet’s gift for language and capturing the moment in essential details…Piercy has brought that poetry into GONE TO SOLDIERS, the sweep of change, loss, and growth, the feel of life going on — the lives that will eventually become our own.”
–Dorothy Allison, VILLAGE VOICE
“For many readers of this urgent and powerful recapturing of World War II the whole immense tapestry will seem to be a tale told long ago suddenly come alive and made as vivid as Star Wars. For readers like me who were alive at the time, it will come as a bringing together of the whole human tragedy, the clarification of a human past we cannot forget and often failed to encompass when it was happening. I found it deeply moving and redemptive and am grate-ful for the imaginative genius who has `brought them back alive’ forever.”
“Despite the tragedy that is the central drama, the book is rich and vivid with the texture of experience. Page after page of exquisitely described moments accumulate…One is stunned and shaken by the terrain of this book and, as if by the same hand that dealt us this blow, given a precious insight into what it is to be committed to the living.”
–Susan Griffin, San Francisco EXAMINER
“A sense of urgency blows through GONE TO SOLDIERS, strong enough to carry even showers of details behind it…GONE TO SOLDIERS is a literary triumph for Marge Piercy and a landmark volume in the literature of war. As few novels have done, it takes into account the way that war affects old people, women, children, even animals and plant life, as well as the ‘official’ participants in battle, the soldiers.”
“No other American writer can match the breadth of Marge Piercy’s vision. Not since John Dos Passos’s US.A trilogy has a group of individual portraits so seamlessly blended together into a single broad canvas of human experience”
–Chicago Sun Times
“An engaging, original, courageous novel. ‘’
–New York Newsday