My Dear I Wanted to Tell You

Louisa Young

While Riley Purefoy and Peter Locke fight for their country, their survival and their sanity in the trenches of Flanders, Nadine Waveney, Julia Locke and Rose Locke do what they can at home. Beautiful Julia and gentle, eccentric Peter are married: every day Julia prepares for her beloved husband's return. Nadine and Riley, only eighteen when the war starts, and with problems of their own already, want above all to make promises - but how can they when their future is completely out of their hands? And Rose? Well, what did happen to the traditionally brought-up women who lost all hope of marriage, because all the young men are dead?

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Inspiration behind ‘My Dear...’ Louisa Young explains the creative process behind her novel



There is much tenderness in this beautiful, romantic story, and some wonderfully crafted surprises. When Riley (a physically beautiful young man, which in the latter part of the book becomes significant) is rejected by the Waveneys, he reacts by doing something completely unexpected and out of character. It’s one of the reasons he almost immediately enlists. I won’t give it away here, but it’s a strange, pivotal moment.

Of course Riley’s desire for Nadine – and hers for him - doesn’t end with him going to war: the enforced separation intensifies their relationship. But the horrors he must endure in France (events written in unsparing detail, so be warned) fall so far outside normal human experience that Riley finds it impossible to describe them to Nadine. This stands between them, as it does for other couples in the story. Even intelligent, articulate men like Riley simply lacked the language to explain the things they had seen and done.

You may be puzzled by the book’s title: have patience. Those seven words will come into their own, I promise. And when they do, you will enter the most moving part of Riley and Nadine’s story. As Richard says, this is a novel that buries itself deep in your consciousness: once read, never forgotten.


This is a book that stayed with me long after I had read the last page. Louisa Young writes with an extraordinary blend of delicacy and brutality about the Great War: she manages to immerse us, along with her characters, in the mud and blood of what was, in 1914, a wholly new and catastrophic human experience: trench warfare.

My Dear I Wanted to Tell You is probably the finest novel about World War One since Sebastian Faulke’s ‘Birdsong’, and a captivating romance. At the heart of the story is Riley Purefoy. Born into a working-class family, Riley scales the social ladder by working as an artist’s assistant in a grand London house. The wealthy, cultured family semi-adopt him and he falls in love with beautiful, wilful Nadine, daughter of his mentor, Sir Arthur Waveney. But when Nadine’s parents realise the pair are becoming dangerously close, Riley is ruthlessly frozen out of the family. Almost at once, he volunteers to fight on the Western Front.

Young hauntingly describes the violent and almost schizophrenic world into which young men like Riley were suddenly tossed. After months in northern France, helplessly caught up in the human mincing machine of the trenches, they might find themselves on leave back in London, just a short train and boat journey from hell. A man could be splattered in a mate’s brains on a Friday, and walking in a peaceful London park on a Saturday. If the wind was in the right direction, the rumble of the guns could be heard at the front, while in the park, children fed pigeons.

Reviews & Comments

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  • I read this book and it was an interesting story but it did go on a bit I'd give it 5 out of 10 I was glad when it finished to be honest


  • I did enjoy this book. Apart from giving a vivid description of life in the trenches and the difficulties soldiers had with adjusting to "normal" life back home it also looked at the problems the people back home were dealing with. For example the upper class older people could not adjust to the changing order of things, whereas the younger women were taking advantage of their new freedom. The author captures this very well.


  • This book for me was a slow burn. The first third of it was languid and did not really inspire me, but I trusted that R&J would not let me down, and so continued. The middle section was pacier, more descriptive, evocative and I began to become hooked. The final third of the book I read in just a couple of hours, as the story reached its climax and I was desperate to find out what happened. The characters were believable, and well researched and written. The book club info at the back was enlightening, and I can honestly say that I would recommend this book to friends and family, with the proviso that they stick at it through the beginning.


  • I have not read a book (except educational material) in years. I wanted a good read and via the R & J book club I picked My dear..... I enjoyed this book and looked forward to picking up the story every evening.


  • I love your book club,wondered for many years if you were Peter Madeleys cousin, found out afew years ago when you visited Shrewsbury that you are.

    I realise that this is a big ask, but I have a book for children coming out in the near future, would you read it for me, seewhat you think.

    Your with fingers and toes crossed Liz Cass

    Liz Cass

  • I really enjoyed this book. All the characters and the storyline were believable and well described. I was impressed by the insight from a male point of view by a female author - it was very well done. I particulalry like the fact that, given the storyline, it did not disolve into sentimentality.

    This is not my usual choice for reading but it has made me realise that I need to step outside my comfort zone more often. I will be looking for more work by this author.


  • Amazing! I have the same feeling that I had after reading Birdsong and nothing has affected me in the same way since. My Dear I Wanted to Tell You touches you emotionally and leaves you feeling humbled and so proud of a generation of brave men and woman who gave their all. We don't know how lucky we are, and we should never forget. This book should be on the school curriculum. What a wonderful author Louisa Young is. I believe her inspiration starting from her grandmother is the reason it feels so real and true because quite simply it is.


  • I started reading this about 6 weeks ago and found it very slow to begin. I left it and read another book but returned yeaterday and have suddenly flown through it. It is so sad and heartfelt and extremely well written.. so persevere if you feel like giving up!! I would give it 9/10

    Jackie Sievewright

  • I enjoyed the second half of this book very much, i do agree with some of the other reviews when they say the book went on a bit at the beginning. I was waiting for the story to build and in the end it did. I couldn't put the book down once i got half way it in 3 days. Loved the ending. I would give it a 7 out of 10.


  • Superb!!! I saved this one for a rainy day as I had a feeling it would be one of those books which stay with you for good. I was correct. My favorite era is WW1 and I have to say this ranks up there with the best. I wont bore any readers with a synopsis as others have done a thorough job before me. Suffice it to say, I wouldn't be surprised if this didn't enter the realms of an almost classic( if there is such a thing) Very knowledgable, wonderful characters, harrowing detail and a true sense of place, this author blew me away and I am so glad you recommended it as I might have overlooked it thinking it was one for the boys..just fabulous.

    wendy mcfarlane

  • This book is up there in my top five books ever...and I have read a lot of novels set in the First World War! I am very surprised that many readers thought it 'went on a bit' as I didn't find that at all and was totally engrossed in the characters. I think it is very difficult to come up with new and original ways of expressing the awfulness of trench warfare but Louisa Young does a fantastic job, whilst also delving into the role of the people left at home. So many books these days are poorly written, sentimental is so refreshing to find one that is this well written and covering such an emotive subject without becoming sentimental. The fact is that we will never really know what it was like for those brave men and women during WW1, but the author's descriptions of the overwhelming misery and fear it caused are second to none. 10 out of 10.

    Anna Saunders

  • I have just finished reading this. I enjoy WW1 novels and wasn't disappointed with this one. Beautifully written, very believable and very informative.

    I loved it - very different to a lot of other WW1 novels in that it dealt with both the war overseas and the life at home. I didn't want it to end.


  • Beautiful and horrifying. A book of war and it's devastating consequences. A book of hope and love. I loved this book.

    venetia hos-edwards

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