On the eve of WWI, two students fall in love in Harvard's hallowed halls and must face a world at war from opposing sides
Helen Windship Brooks is struggling to find herself at the world-renowned Harvard-Radcliffe University when brooding German poet Wils bursts into her life. As they fall deeply in love on the brink of WWI, anti-German sentiments mount and Wils' future at Harvard-and in America-is in increasing danger. When Wils is called to fight for the Kaiser, Helen must decide if she is ready to fight her own battle for what she loves most.
From Harvard's hallowed halls to Belgium's war-ravaged battlefields, The End of Innocence is a powerful new vision of finding love and hope in a violent, broken world.
My Thoughts: Allegra Jordan's The End of Innocence is a beautifully written story set at the beginning of World War I. Harvard University's campus takes center stage in this heart-breaking tale of love, loss, and new beginnings. I really don't know anything about Harvard's history or campus but this story made me want to learn more. The descriptions of the campus and the buildings were wonderful and I enjoyed learning about the building of the memorial chapel and the two memorials in it. I liked how the author took one of the main characters and made her the main proponent of the need for a memorial to the German students.
The story centers around Helen, Wils and his cousin, Riley. Wils is German and Riley is English which creates an interesting dichotomy. The war has just broken out, tempers are heated on the Harvard University campus and Wils was German when it was the least coolest thing to be. Wils was my favorite part of the story. I loved his personality, his poetry and just his voice in general. He dealt with all of the negativity on campus with such grace. Riley was an interesting character in that he seemed really superficial at first but as the story progressed, he grew into a really admirable character. Both cousins loved each other and didn't really have strong feelings about the war but were forced to fight against each other. I've always struggled with a 'side' when it comes to World War I and this book cemented in my head the immense suffering that both sides had to deal with.
Following Helen throughout the story was kind of like riding a roller coaster. There were a lot of highs and lows but at the end of the day, she was an extremely tough, resilient and intelligent character. I can't imagine dealing with the pain she had to endure but I was glad to see her find herself as the story progressed. The only thing that I didn't love about the story is that it felt really rushed at the end. I loved the way it ended but it still seemed to go from one story line to the next really quickly.
I'm really interested in the World War I era but I haven't read much about what was going on in the United States during the early years of the war so this story opened up a whole new world for me. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a fascinating and well-written story. 4 stars.
For more information about the Memorial Church at Harvard, click here.