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Shortlisted for the 2020 Joyce Carol Oates Prize
'Part mystery, part war story, part romance, The Winter Soldier is a dream of a novel' - Anthony Doerr, author of All The Light We Cannot See.
From the bestselling author of The Piano Tuner, comes Daniel Mason's The Winter Soldier, a story of love and medicine through the devastation of 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, only to find himself posted to a remote field-hospital ravaged by typhus. Supplies have all but run out, the other doctors have fled, and only a single nurse remains, 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 course of his life.
From the gilded ballrooms of Imperial Vienna to the frozen forests of the Eastern Front, The Winter Soldier is the story of finding love in the sweeping tides of history, and of the mistakes we make and the precious opportunities to atone.
In Mason's moving historical novel (after The Piano Tuner), Lucius Krzelewski is a 22-year-old, upper-class medical student in 1914 Vienna who, after Austria enters World War I, volunteers for duty. Despite his lack of practical experience, he is sent to a field hospital in the Carpathian Mountains, where he is expected to perform emergency surgeries. Fortunately, he is guided by Sister Margarete, a nurse with a mysterious background who teaches him the surgical skills he lacks. They go on to become lovers. One day, they are given a new patient, a shell-shocked soldier who can only communicate by drawing pictures. Lucius becomes obsessed with finding a cure for this patient, who is dubbed the winter soldier. Then, Margarete disappears and Lucius gets lost looking for her. He is transferred to another medical unit, then is returned home to Vienna. But despite an arranged marriage, Lucius can't go on with his life until he finds out what happened to Margarete and the winter soldier. 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.