cover image The Winter Soldier

The Winter Soldier

Daniel Mason. Little, Brown, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-316-47760-4

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. (Sept.)