Winn’s prose is percussive, driving the story forward with a mix of Edwardian masculine sentimentality and the improbable plotting of a period romance ... The book is cut into the shape of a thousand cliffhangers, and although once or twice it strains credulity, I couldn’t put it down ... Winn’s exquisite pacing lives in her syntax as much as her plot, giving vim and vigor to every line.
At once epic and intimate, humorous and profound, a vivid rendering of the madness and legacy of the first world war as seen through the lens of a schoolboy love affair ... Although Winn is interested in what war does to the self and to abstract notions of beauty, bravery and home, she doesn’t shy away from the brutality of the frontline ... Even in the direst moments Winn’s dialogue thrums with mirth and furious intelligence. Throughout, she artfully switches perspectives and settings, leaving the reader in desperate suspense over fates and fortunes.
The horrors of life in the trenches are described in stomach-turning detail ... Winn has not written this book for easy reading on the Tube. There is an ease to her writing, though, a zippy confidence, unusual for a debut, that allows her to skip across Europe ... In Memoriam concludes in a slightly lacklustre fashion, with a feeling of lost momentum. Loose ends are tied up, characters married off or exiled, but Winn refuses an easy happy ending. She shows the rather less satisfying reality of living with the trauma of war.
In Memoriam threatens at points to overdose the reader on sepia-tinted sentimentality. That the book is for the most part saved from degenerating into outright mawkishness is owed to Winn’s intelligent feeling for her historical material, careful treatment of character and well-paced style ... She does an intelligent job here too at simulating the male imagination, and although the sex remains carefully speculative, there are occasional observations of striking acuity ... What kind of life awaits Ellwood and Gaunt in England, still 40 years away from the Wolfenden report? In attempting to solve this problem in the closing stages of the book, Winn, it seems to me, opts for wish-fulfilment over realism. Nevertheless, In Memoriam remains an affecting, if rather misty-eyed debut.
The novel changes too. Gone is the languorous, yearning atmosphere of its early pages; here instead is a brisk, cold-hearted dealing out of death ... Despite the effectiveness of much of this, and despite Ellwood’s reflection that the realities of war are now 'brighter and clearer than all the literature he had ever read', at times events can seem a little secondhand. The action is oddly weightless ... Still, there is much to like. The cast of characters is highly enjoyable ... The rush of the plot, alternating between the perspectives of Ellwood and Gaunt, takes us through the shattering events of 1914-18 and affectingly shows us the marks it leaves on them. It is a pity that these events, and the literary conventions used to depict them, to an extent overpower the deeper resonances of Ellwood and Gaunt’s transgressive and individual relationship. That could have been the most interesting world of all.
An epic love story ... Author Alice Winn so deeply inhabits her characters, their vanishing prep-school world, the end of empire and the arrival of brutal modern war that it’s hard to believe this is her first novel. In Memoriam feels like an old-fashioned door stopper, with a huge cast of background characters ... A gorgeous novel, both a meditation on the futility and trauma of a war that sent a generation of young men to their deaths and a gripping love-in-wartime story, with a bittersweet yet hopeful conclusion.
Winn’s battle scenes are hair-raising and terrifying, but her portraits of Sidney and Henry are intimate and evocative ... Watching them search for each other across a damaged Europe makes for a love story that's hard to forget.
Amid the chaos, Winn stages excellent action scenes: a tense scouting mission, as well as a tunnel-digging episode involving an escape from a German POW camp. The hunger the men feel, as well as their shell shock, is palpable, but it is the men’s love for each other that resonates.