Gifts of War: Book summary and reviews of Gifts of War by Mackenzie Ford

Gifts of War

A Novel

By Mackenzie Ford

Gifts of War

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About this book

Book Summary

The Gifts of War brings readers into the vivid landscape of World War I while combining the drama of military intelligence with elements of romance and secrecy.

During the Christmas Truce of 1914, a German gives a British soldier a photo and they make a pact. Hal, the British soldier, promises to find his enemy’s English girlfriend, Sam, and let her know her fiancé is alive and thinking of her. Several weeks later, Hal—now injured—is discharged from the army and fulfills his promise. But things take an unexpected turn when he meets the woman in the photo and falls in love with her himself. As their romance blossoms, Sam shares with Hal her most private confidence: her newborn son is of German lineage, information that threatens her reputation and job as a schoolteacher. Fearful that he will lose Sam, Hal holds tight to the secret—and the photograph—that brought them together.

Mackenzie Ford sets the story of Hal and Sam's love affair against the broader landscape of England at war, and brilliantly captures the era and the fates of men and women caught in the sweep of history. A vivid tale of romance, adventure, and intrigue, Gifts of War is a remarkable narrative that explores what made War World I so tragic, so revolutionary, and so exciting.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Highly recommended for readers of historical fiction as well as those who enjoy tales of espionage." - Library Journal

"[A] a fine work of fiction - faithful to historical fact and romantic to its core ... Give it to fans of Susan Isaacs' Shining Through or Michael Ondaatje’'s The English Patient, among others." - Booklist

"Stiff-upper-lip storytelling redeemed by flashes of feeling and a welter of period detail." - Kirkus Reviews

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Kristine I. (Carmel, IN)
Liars need good memories
Gifts of War was a surprise read for me. I thought I could tell where the story was going to go based on the book cover description. But the book is much more than the relationship between Hal and Sam. It is an examination of the meanings of love and of family. I enjoyed getting a taste of what it was like to live in England during World War I, and to see the changing roles for women in that time I didn’t find either of the main characters especially likable, but as the story unfolded I found myself drawn to their situation and the dilemma the future would bring. The ending is very powerful and will stay in my mind for a long time.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Elaine B. (franklin, MA)
Surprisingly Literary Descriptives
I really loved the descriptive passages in this book. The historical passages and informative context of World War 1, although a painless way to learn history, were not what kept me reading. It was the word pictures of the sights, smells, and sounds so beautifully written and transporting. A really pleasant surprise!

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Molinda C. (APO, AE)
"Gifts of War", like some gifts, not all I hoped for.
"Gifts of War" did not draw me in in the way that I had hoped. As a person in the military, I was interested in this book as a work of historical fiction. In that sense, Mackenzie Ford delivers. Her story is set within the chaotic backdrop of England during WWI. She writes so that the reader has a sense of the fear and recklessness that the British lived with during that period. Unfortunately, the story drags a bit and seems a bit contrived at key junctures so that it is all too neatly tied up in the end. This was not a page turner for me.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Carol N. (San Jose, CA)
Gifts of War
Set against the ferment of World War I, Gifts of War is a finely woven tapestry that deals with one man’s choices, consequences and redemption. This vivid tale of romance and intrigue is a salient narrative that explores the uncertainties of the human heart by creating a story that resonates with the reader long after having finished the last page. I thoroughly enjoyed Mackenzie Ford’s book filled with superb period details of wartime England. It captured the era and the fates of men and women caught in this period of history. With its uncertainty, this touching love story has a shocker of a surprise ending that kept me wanting to know how Montgomery would resolve the war within him. Just between you and me it would make a terrific movie!

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Phyllis R. (East New Market, MD)
Gifts of War by Mackenzie Ford
From its striking opening scene during the Christmas Truce of 1914, Gifts of War follows the fortunes of 23-year-old Henry Montgomery. Wounded and sent home, Hal contacts the fiancee of the German officer he met, but falls in love with her himself. How that relationship progresses and Hal's career in Intelligence present the main narrative lines. There is good pacing of action, and suspense is maintained by questions about a developing relationship based in part on deceit. A different perspective of the war is shown through the working of the Intelligence Department. The characters are well realized, and the ending unpredictable. Involves the reader both intellectually and emotionally.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Anne M. (Austin, TX)
War Novel -- better than some
This novel about the Great War - specifically about a soldier and his life after service - isn't wonderful, but it isn't terrible either. Ford's description of the Christmas Eve Truce 1914 at one particular line is lovely, and it's nice to read a "non-prettified" version of what happened in several locations on that night.

Hal, the protagonist, is given a task to complete in England by his German counterpart, and the rest of the book is taken up by how he decides to handle that task. I loved the descriptions of lower-middle-class life during and after the War - most novels are concerned with the truly lower classes or with the aristos - and, although I didn't find the ending satisfactory, I've read too much Danielle Steel in my day, it was nevertheless fairly well done.

...27 more reader reviews

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Mackenzie Ford is the nom de plume of a well-known historian whose books are published in seventeen languages. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the London Times, the Observer, the Spectator and the Sunday Times. He was for ten years a research associate at the Macdonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge, during which time he wrote a book that was voted by Time magazine as one of the ten best books of 2006.

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