Despite its serious concerns, The Winter Soldier brims with improbable narrative pleasures. Mason is a practitioner of storytelling backhandedly praised as “old-fashioned.” In fact, it’s timeless. These pages crackle with excitement — and charging cavalries, false identities, arranged marriages, scheming industrialists and missing persons ... Lucius may fail, but the novel he carries is a spectacular success.
The beauty of Daniel Mason’s new novel, The Winter Soldier, persists even through scenes of unspeakable agony. That tension reflects the span of his talent. As a writer, Mason knows how to capture the grace of a moment ... he’s extraordinarily good at conjuring up journeys into unfamiliar places ... The story that unfolds in this forsaken place is so captivating that you may feel as unable to leave it as Lucius does ... The descriptions of maggots are a vision of hell you will never forget ... The redemption the story ultimately offers is equally unlikely and gorgeous, painfully limited but gratefully received in a world thrown into chaos.
You can let down your guard and simply enjoy this unfashionable genre in the hands of a master writer. That's how I felt from the very first pages of Daniel Mason’s new novel, The Winter Soldier, a captivating story set in the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War I ... early passages describing the hospital, its various characters and the education that Lucius receives there—both medical and romantic—are among the many marvels ... Mason, himself a physician...has a light touch with such dark subjects. Light, too, is the deployment of his thorough historical research. The archaic military terminology...establishes a rich sense of this bygone war but never distracts from the characters or story. The Winter Soldier is a novel that happens to draw on history, but it does what all the best novels do: Creates a world in which readers pleasurably lose themselves.
With a physician’s precision and an artist’s eye, author Daniel Mason (The Piano Tuner) captures the emotional and physical upheaval wrought by war. Right from the start, his new novel, The Winter Soldier, thrums with tension, whisking the reader into the fray ... With striking prose and an unencumbered pace, The Winter Soldier makes for a uniquely compelling read.
In Mason’s powerful tale of individuals caught up in world-changing events, Lucius’s meandering search for his lost love also becomes a journey towards some kind of redemption from the horrors he has witnessed.
So, this may be a war story, but not one that chronicles great battles thundering across the landscape. No, this is the tale of the people behind the lines—those who not only watch the atrocities of war unfold, but whose job it is to deal with them after they do. To say the least, then, this is not a book for the queasy or lighthearted. It’s more than just a gore fest, of course—much more—but as a student of medicine himself, Mason doesn’t flinch when it comes to detailing all the soldiers’ various afflictions, physical and mental. This immersive approach is at once frightening and fascinating, making you cringe as often as it piques your curiosity for the grotesque ... Margarete, the real star of The Winter Soldier ... is genuinely one of the most well-written characters I have ever encountered in my literary travels. Just when you think you have a bead on her, she’s always three steps ahead ... However, for as beautiful as Mason’s prose consistently is, describing everything from faces to trees in the most exquisite manner, it does clog up the story at certain points. His writing is very heavy and symbolic, which I can absolutely appreciate, but when a description of a scene gets in the way of what could have been a scene through-and-through, it doesn’t sit well with me ... Regardless ... This story of love, war and medicine can be called nothing less than a modern achievement in excellent character-building.
...[a] moving historical novel ... 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.
Mason then turns the narrative in a direction we’ve come to expect, for love and war are intimately connected ... 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.