I had heard of this book for a long time, and decided to read it for my WWI Reading Challenge after watching the PBS movie. As usual, I enjoyed the book much more than the movie, although I thought the movie was good when I saw it earlier this year.
Part one begins in1910 when Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman, is sent to France by his company to learn more about the manufacturing process of textiles from Rene Azaire, the owner of two factories. Stephen and Azaire's wife Isabelle fall in love and have an affair while Stephen is staying with the Azaires.
Part two jumps to 1916 and Stephen is an officer fighting in France during World War I. Like another reviewer mentioned, I didn't know about the tunneling that was done in the war. WWI really was one of the most brutal wars ever fought, and I've never really understood what it was about. This book didn't get into the reasons for the war, but it certainly did an excellent job of describing the horrors of it.
Part three jumps to 1978 where Stephen's granddaughter Elizabeth is trying to learn more about her grandfather. While this part of the story was not as interesting or compelling to me, there was one scene that I thought justified having this section in the book: Elizabeth visits a veteran who had been a soldier with Stephen. He'd had his left leg amputated and still suffered from shell shock and had lived in a veteran's home for almost 60 years. His only visitor had been his sister who had died almost 30 years earlier. There was also a parallel between Elizabeth and Isabelle Azaire that I won't say any more about so I don't give away too much of the story.
I thought the book was very well written and I rate it 4 out of 5.