The Soldier’s Return

ISBN: 1559706856
ISBN 13: 9781559706858
By: Melvyn Bragg

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About this book

When Sam Richardson returns from WW2 to Wigton in Cumbria, he finds little has changed, as far as his own limited prospects go. in his absence, though, his young family has changed immensely, And Sam struggles to adjust to life in peacetime.

Reader's Thoughts


One of the most moving books I've ever read. Absolutely astonishing in its portrayal of a post-war family dealing with the aftermath of separation and war. Wonderful.

Carol Rizzardi

I appreciated the author's facility in creating totally believable characters and in capturing the different responses of each to the situations presented. No one talked about PTSS in 1946, yet veterans certainly suffered from it. The strong desire to return to normalcy after war is in direct conflict witht he reality that nothing is every "normal" again.While I found myself frustrated with the inability of the characters to really communicate, I also realized that this rather than the inverse is more the norm. As a North American, I found some of the British vocabulary unfamiliar, but not enough so to interfere with enjoying the book.A worthwhile read. And even though I didn't really like the ending, it fit with the overall theme of the book. (No spoiler alert needed, as this is purposely ambiguous.)


** spoiler alert ** This was the selected text for my reading group and we all enjoyed it. None of us, despite being Cumbrians, had read Melvyn Bragg before. It is et in Wigtown after WW2 - a local boy, Sam, turned soldier returning from the campaign in Burma with all its attendant horrors. Sam has been traumatised by what he has witnessed - the torture, the violence, the loss of his best friend and it has changed him. He is harder, haunted and disappointed in his wife Ellen. She shouldn't be for she has brought up their son, struggled financially and taken on three part time jobs and survived as he has done though in a different and apparently safer world. Her world seems restricted and rigid to him now and her unwillingness to change irritates and dissatisfies him yet at the same time he resents her working and wants to feel master in his own home though part of him accepts that things have indeed changed. Confusion and ambivalence about their roles as husband and wife and parents which are inevitably different because of their long years apart cause a predictable conflict.Despite the predicability of the plot the story is beautifully written and the sense of place is excellent which is probably due to its being the authors home town.this is the beginning of a trilogy yet the cliff hanger ending had me expecting en entirely different denouement.


About a soldier's return after the Burmese war (the one that went on for a year after the European war ended and saw some of the worst atrocities). He returns to a small village in Cumbria to find it the same but not the same. The women have had jobs and don't want to go back to being housewives. His small village assumes he will fit back into his proper station in life, but, despite having little education, he has learned to be a leader and to want to know more during the war. The book is well written with characters who struggle with big changes and how to articulate them to each other. A good reminder to all of us how we will never understand what people have gone through in wars and a good description of people trying to cope with change in their lives. Cleanly written, and makes you think.


I wasn’t sure what to expect of Melvyn Bragg. Although I liked the sound of the book, and went as far as to read the first few pages before I went ahead and nominated it to the rest of the group, I was concerned that it might be a bit heavy going, but on the contrary, it was a very easy read. In fact, in some places it reminded me of the Catherine Cookson books that I couldn’t get enough of in my teenage years!Don’t get me wrong - I did enjoy it, but I somehow expected a bit more substance to it.I was staggered that it won the ‘WHS Literary Award 2000’. I would have thought there were other, more substantial books, which might have taken that award, but maybe Mr Bragg’s name helped!All in all, and enjoyable read, but not anything special.


I thought this was a really good book. It is about a family-Sam-a soldier who returns home after war, Ellen-his wife, and Joe-his young son. It is all about how they readjust to having Sam back home after the war and how life has changed and how Sam has changed. This was set in 1946 in England-way before the days of PTSD were diagnosed in soldiers returning from war. Sam is very much a classic PTSD and late in the book you find out why that is. There were some parts like the carnival which I could picture being there. It reminded me of the carnival on the 4th of July here or the Minnesota State Fair. Throughout the book, you'll find yourself empathizing with every character, and maybe getting angry at a few. This is a book of many emotions.

Liz Bascal

Poignant and thought provoking

Jodi Blyde

I wanted to love this story. I really did. But it lacked plot and substance, and dragged on. I battled my way through 12 chapters before giving up.


I love reading wartime novels, I always learn something. This is a very personal story of a British soldier in Burma during WWII. Really, really good.


This wasn't at all what I was expecting. Knowing Melvyn Bragg's radio programme In Our Time I was expecting a very intellectual, heavy, literary work. In fact it was a very readable, human story. Not particularly memorable maybe but quite enjoyable.

John Pollard

Well written, absorbing, believable and interesting characters. Slightly hard-to-swallow ending.


I'm an absolute sucker for small town UK life and details,maybe because I didn't have to live in one??? Also, Like sagas.

Carl Smith-owens


Kate Millin

By the time corporal Sam Richardson returns from Burma to his Cumbrian hometown of Wigton, the bunting's long gone, and Sam, like everybody else, wants to get back to normal. But his plans to return to family life with Ellen and six- year-old son Joe don't run smooth. The war has taken away his old job, while Ellen holds down two; Joe's been raised with other men as father-figures; and Sam struggles to repress what he's witnessed out east. This novel explores the most unsettling of experiences: returning to a normality that's no longer normal. In Sam, with his undemonstrative reserve and irrational suspicions, he creates a man who cannot heal the mental scars of active service. This is a very bittersweet book, it is very thought provoking showing how a person's reality and grip on 'real life' is strongly affected by what you have experienced. It also shows how hard it is when the reality experienced by two partners is so different when they are trying to learn to live together again.

Tim Corke

Beautiful, harrowing, warm, sad, honest, love; just some of the words you could use to describe this common tale from the end of WW2 when the men who left English shores with pride to fight for King and country returned with their souls tormented. When Sam left Ellen to fight in Burma, the horrors that he endured changed their relationship upon his return. Seeing his living pals stricken with mental health issues or reliving the brutal deaths of those e served with, Sam wanted more than the local town, the run down houses, the dead end job. Or did he??This book will be used as a reflective guide on human emotion of the period and certainly deserves its plaudits. I'd recommend to anyone who wants to find out more about this difficult and turbulent time faced by returning WW2 servicemen.

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