Reviewed by Karin Lips
World war I, 1914. The Christmas truce brings British soldier Hal in contact with German soldier Wilhelm, who bestowes upon Hal a photograph to be passed on to the woman he loves, a British teacher named Sam, as a proof of life and a token of Wilhelm’s love.
Some time later, Hal has recovered from injury in battle; he decides to find Sam. But the moment he sees her, Hal is sold; he falls in love with her and instead of giving her Wilhelm’s photo, he decides to pursue her for himself. While he fights for her affections, Hal’s conscience threatens to intervene with his one chance at love, as he keeps Wilhelm’s photograph hidden from her.
The novel had a unique start but it took a while to get into the following hundred or so pages. After that, the story started to pick up pace.
What I missed most was authentic language. Hal is the narrator of The Kissing Gates; supposedly it’s his account written shortly after the war. One could expect the language used to be more suitable for its supposed time. I often found phrasing and dialogue too modern, hampering the (in this case) necessary authentic feel of an early 20th century atmosphere.
The writing style left a lot to be desired, but the book was unpretentious, easy to read while enough happened to keep me interested. There were some scenes threatening to turn The Kissing Gates into a Harlequin novel, but thankfully Ford managed to keep it to a minimum. The ending was very redeeming and I was relieved Ford went in this direction.
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