Summary and book reviews of The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason

The Winter Soldier

by Daniel Mason

The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason X
The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason
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  • Published:
    Sep 2018, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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About this Book

Book Summary

By the international bestselling author of The Piano Tuner, a sweeping and unforgettable love story of a young doctor and nurse at a remote field hospital in the First World War.

Vienna, 1914. Lucius is a twenty-two-year-old medical student when World War I explodes across Europe. Enraptured by romantic tales of battlefield surgery, he enlists, expecting a position at a well-organized field hospital. But when he arrives, at a commandeered church tucked away high in a remote valley of the Carpathian Mountains, he finds a freezing outpost ravaged by typhus. The other doctors have fled, and only a single, mysterious nurse named Sister Margarete remains.

But Lucius has never lifted a surgeon's scalpel. And as the war rages across the winter landscape, he finds himself falling in love with the woman from whom he must learn a brutal, makeshift medicine. Then one day, an unconscious soldier is brought in from the snow, his uniform stuffed with strange drawings. He seems beyond rescue, until Lucius makes a fateful decision that will change the lives of doctor, patient, and nurse forever.

From the gilded ballrooms of Imperial Vienna to the frozen forests of the Eastern Front; from hardscrabble operating rooms to battlefields thundering with Cossack cavalry, The Winter Soldier is the story of war and medicine, of family, of finding love in the sweeping tides of history, and finally, of the mistakes we make, and the precious opportunities to atone.

Certain affections have an unfortunate destiny.

—André Léri, 1918, Commotions et émotions de guerre

1.

Northern Hungary,
February 1915


They were five hours east of Debrecen when the train came to a halt before the station on the empty plain.

There was no announcement, not even a whistle. Were it not for the snow-draped placard, he wouldn't have known they had arrived. Hastening, afraid he would miss the stop, he gathered his bag, his coat, his saber, pushing his way out through the men who filled the corridor of the train. He was the only passenger to descend. Farther down the line, porters unloaded a pair of crates onto the snow before jumping back on board, slapping warmth into their hands. Then the carriages began to move, chains clanking, stirring his greatcoat and swirling snow around his knees.

He found the hussar in the station house, with the horses brought in from the cold. Their ears flicked against the low ceiling, their long faces ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Overall, what do you think of The Winter Soldier?
  2. The Winter Soldier is a story of World War I from the perspective of a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Are you familiar with other novels where WWI is portrayed from this point-of-view, and if so, which?  Does this perspective make the story feel different from those told from the Allied side, and if so, how?
  3. What surprised you about the novel? Did you learn anything new from it?
  4. Lucius was passionate about becoming a doctor, but felt the origin of his interest was a mystery.  Based on the novel's depiction of his childhood, do you have any insight as to where his fascination may have had its genesis?  Have you ever been absorbed by a ...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Here are some of the comments posted about The Winter Soldier.
You can see the full discussion here.


Are you familiar with other novels where WWI is portrayed from the point of view of a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire? Does this perspective make the story feel different from those told from the Allied side?
No I haven't, this is my first but won't be my last. - lilliantpr

Did the intensely graphic descriptions of the hospital make it difficult for you to keep reading?
I was reviewing the responses and I started thinking about my preferred way of receiving information. It is reading it instead of listening to it. I find that I get more emotional listening to something than reading it. I do this for news items ... - scgirl

Do some professions offer greater social status, and do some who enter them do so solely for that purpose?
Some professions do offer a greater status and surely, people do enter them solely for that purpose. Hence, we have bad doctors, with very little or no empathy towards their patients, lawyers who can misrepresent their clients, etc... - lilliantpr

Do you have any insight as to where Lucius' fascination with medicine had its genesis? Have you ever been absorbed by a career or hobby and if so, do you know where your interest arose?
I think he was just better at understanding what goes on under the skin than he was at understanding people. - PiperUp

Do you think people can learn to become proficient at small-talk? Did you feel his discomfort when members of society helped or hurt him?
Yes. People can develop an ability to engage in small talk despite shyness or introversion. Just ask somebody an open ended question, show interest, and let the other person talk. I think Lucius ultimately would develop his ability to be in social ... - vivianh

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Winter Soldier weaves a spellbinding story, which draws you into another world from the very first page. There is so much grandeur and sweep in these pages that you might be forgiven for not wanting to turn the last page.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review (631 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Mason's old-fashioned novel delivers a sweeping yet intimate account of WWI, and in Lucius, the author has created an outstanding protagonist. Reminiscent of Thomas Keneally's Season in Purgatory, this novel is a fine addition to fictional testaments of doctors and nurses during wartime.

Library Journal
[Mason's] lyrical and affecting novel about the costs of war and lost love will satisfy readers of quality fiction.

Kirkus Reviews
Mason's contribution to war literature involves almost no depiction of fighting but rather its aftermath, the tragically scarred soldiers, and the almost equally traumatized caregivers who sacrifice their health in providing medical help to the wounded.

Author Blurb Anthony Doerr, author of New York Times bestseller All the Light We Cannot See
Part mystery, part war story, part romance, The Winter Soldier is a dream of a novel - impeccably researched and totally immersive. The unsinkable Margarete is a mesmerizing character, and the book's investigation into the psychiatric toll of war on its combatants could not be more timely. This novel convinces you with every sentence.

Author Blurb Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Less
So real, so rich and detailed, that the room in which I was reading vanished. I was transported to a lost world of the past. Suspenseful, thrilling, aching with emotion. Living with Lucius and Margarete, it was the First World War as I have never felt it.

Author Blurb Julia Glass, author of A House Among the Trees and National Book Award-winning Three Junes
In the tradition of Cold Mountain and Doctor Zhivago, Daniel Mason's new novel is a gloriously gripping story of love, war, and the marvel of human endurance. Sweeping yet intimate, brutal yet tender, it kept me up, it broke my heart, and it made me remember yet again just how a good book - a really good book - rekindles our love of life.

Reader Reviews

Catherine O

Get Lost in The Winter Soldier
The Winter Soldier transports the reader back one hundred years to war torn Eastern Europe. We see events through the eyes of a young medical student being trained in Vienna who is suddenly delivered to a field hospital in the Carpathian Mountains as...   Read More

DMZ18

The Winter Soldier
The Winter Soldier is a beautifully nuanced novel set as World War I begins to fester within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Daniel Mason draws the reader into Lucius Kzeleweski’s psyche, the angst, and alienation this bashful, sensitive 22 year old ...   Read More

Christine Schaefer

This had everything and more
I really really loved this book. It was thoughtfully and poetically written about the difficult times in a makeshift hospital during WWI. Each couple of pages had a vignette that helped deepen the understanding of what the people went through - ...   Read More

Deborah M

WW1 from an Eastern European POV
When World War I breaks out, Lucius Krzelewski, only son of a Polish aristocrat, is a second year medical student. His father, a former cavalry man, wants to use his connections to get his son a glory-seeking position at the front, but Lucius instead...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Medicine and World War I

Makeshift hospital at a church in Bezu-le-Geury, France, June 16, 1918The Winter Soldier shines light on the desperate measures taken to save lives during a war that produced casualties in the millions. When Lucius Krzelewski arrives in the small Eastern European village of Lemnowice, Sister Margarete informs him that she has lost many soldiers to typhus (typhoid fever) and that chronic infections of lice had driven many literally insane. Medical supplies are limited to sutures and a few antiseptics, which have to be periodically supplied to the remote field unit.

Given that the use of advanced weapons of killing such as machine guns and artillery increased dramatically during WWI, the types of wounds that soldiers suffered were correspondingly catastrophic. Prior to WWI, the best hope for wounded ...

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