France, 1916: Estelle Graham faces a nightmare. Expecting to meet her beloved husband and bring their newly adopted daughter home to Scotland, she instead finds him gravely injured and unconscious in a casualty station. As she fights for his care, she takes solace in his journals and letters.
In a farmhouse in Somme, Captain Jamie Graham is forever changed when he meets young Aveline Perrault. Both of them broken and walled off from the cruel and cold world around them—made even crueler and colder by the Great War—the pair form an unlikely bond. She finds in him the father she never had, and with her love, he faces the pain from his own childhood.
Discover the depth of love and faith in the face of brutality and neglect as they learn to live while surviving World War I.
Praise for The War in Our Hearts:
Beautifully crafted, we see Graham’s story from boyhood to present. I usually don’t read stories about war but this story sucked me in. I love Graham’s background story, the writing was poetic and his relationships with his wife Estelle, Avie and George were beautiful 🙂
I really ended up loving this one. It reminds you of the best parts of life, and it reminds you of the worst, and they’re woven together in such a way that you see they often coexist, and sometimes not as far as you think. I was also struck by the title; originally, I assumed it came from the romance angle of the story, but it’s actually about the abuse and darkness in our pasts that leaves us forever torn, feeling less than whole. It did not end the way I thought it would, but it was so immensely satisfying, and I felt like every piece of the story was strong and essential to bring it to the place it did. A beautiful and evocative read.
Eva Seyler’s heart-breaking WWI novel spins the tale of Captain Augustus Graham, a Scottish lord with a love of music made so much sweeter by the appreciation of his compassionate and fearless wife, Estelle, and his rescue of Aveline, a thirteen-year-old orphan caught between the trenches. Tortured by his overbearing father from a young age, Graham survives his youth with the help of his devoted, yet seemingly-charmed fraternal twin brother, and his discovery of his own identity through a natural musicality and faith. Jumping between the horrors of the trench warfare and the major events of Graham’s life, Seyler lets us fall in love with our reluctant hero, the same way the independent Estelle does, by coaxing him out of his protective shell.
When Graham meets Aveline, a victim lost to the horrors of a war-torn French countryside, he develops a fast kinship and devotion to the young woman, who is in many ways a reflection of himself. Determined to return Aveline to Scotland to raise as part of his own family, Graham finds meaning in the anonymous mud and blood of the Great War, and a redemption in his own eyes, for the sins of his father. Like the Scottish ballads Graham and Estelle use to vocalize their love, Seyler’s story is both maddingly sweet and heart-ripping sad, which is why this reviewer loved this epic tale of love, honor, and redemption.
A moving account of an unusual friendship blossoming out of the horrors of the trenches in World War I.
I take my character sketches quite literally. These are a few of my favourites.
I have a YouTube playlist for the book.
Most of these videos are music mentioned in The War in Our Hearts.
Interspersed are seven songs representative of specific characters, not because they are of the period. These are:
Ae Fond Kiss – Willie Duncan / Bridge Over Troubled Water – Estelle Graham / Bring Him Home – Peter Davies / Brother – George Graham / Hame, Hame, Hame – Oliver MacFie / How Can I Keep From Singing – Jamie Graham / Plaisir d’Amour – Aveline Perrault
Also on the playlist are two songs Graham might have sung when he was small, and I’ve included them because Jean-Baptiste Maunier looks how I picture Graham, and Richard Bonsall sounds exactly as I imagine Graham as a boy. (I hear Lawrence Tibbett with a Scottish accent for his adult voice.) The Paganini Caprice is what Graham was playing on his wedding night, and I’ve thrown in a few duets that I could well picture him and Estelle having played together during her first visit to the castle.
Recommended reading relevant to The War in Our Hearts:
A Childhood in Scotland, Christian Miller : Primary inspiration for Graham’s upbringing. Christian’s writing is a perfect delight, and it’s a little book you can read quickly, although I’ve been through it three times and I find myself longing to just savour every turn of phrase.
Eye-Deep in Hell, John Ellis : Practical guide to trench warfare in WWI. What they ate and wore, how they received and sent mail, how they dealt with rats and fleas, and plenty of delightfully gruesome details about corpses and filth in general.
Hot Blood and Cold Steel, Andy Simpson : Another practical guide to trench warfare in WWI. Some of the same information as Eye-Deep in Hell, but this one had enough different stuff in it that I was very glad I read it. Definitely had more about the process of dealing with the wounded, which came in very handy for The War in Our Hearts.
The Somme: The Day-by-Day Account, Chris McCarthy : For weather reports and daily movements of the battles and which divisions did what and where, look no further. The cover features a delicious painting of kilted soldiers, too, which as far as I’m concerned makes the book completely worth having.
The Fifteenth (Scottish) Division, Lt Col John Stewart and John Buchan : Graham’s division is loosely based on this one. It’s not easy reading, and I haven’t read the whole thing. But if you want Absolutely Every Last Detail about this division all throughout the war (they also fought in other battles pre- and post-Somme), this is the book for you.
Recommended reading about WWI generally:
The Alice Network, Kate Quinn : This is my second favourite WWI histfic. It has parallel, connected storylines, WWI and WWII, and features spies, snogging, and Scotsmen, oh my. Adult Fiction.
All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque : So much owwww in such a good way. Adult Fiction.
Bruar’s Rest, Jess Smith : Interesting look at the WWI era through the eyes of Scottish Travellers. Parts of it were dark and creepy, but I’m so glad I read it. Adult Fiction.
Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War, Max Hastings : This covers some of the same ground as The Guns of August, but goes beyond August through the end of 1914 and includes more information about the Eastern Front than most other books I’ve read. Adult Nonfiction.
Come On In, America: The United States in World War I, Linda Barrett Osborne : This was a quick, informative read with lots of pictures. Young Adult Nonfiction.
Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion, Chris Barton : I loved the art in this one and learned stuff I didn’t know! Picture Book.
Dead Wake, Erik Larson : Stellar account of the sinking of the Lusitania. Adult Nonfiction.
The Guns of August, Barbara W Tuchman : In-depth look at the first month of the war and the preceding months. Basically the indispensable classic. Adult Nonfiction.
In Flanders Fields, Linda Granfield : Absolutely stunning art and background story to the famous poem. Picture Book.
Shooting at the Stars, John Hendrix : Beautifully illustrated account of the 1914 Christmas truce. Picture Book.
The Skylarks’ War, Hilary McKay : (US title Love to Everyone) This made me so happy from the first to the last page. Middle Grade Fiction.
The Summer Before the War, Helen Simonson : My favourite WWI novel with an Elizabeth Gaskell vibe I adore. Adult Fiction.
To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918, Adam Hochschild : Explores the lives of figures not usually talked about in the historical narrative of WWI. Adult Nonfiction.
Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood, Nathan Hale : My kids and I ADORE this one. Graphic Novel.
The War That Ended Peace, Margaret MacMillan : Very long, very thorough, very good. Adult Nonfiction.
The Zimmermann Telegram, Barbara W Tuchman : How and why the USA got into the war. Adult Nonfiction.