cover image The End of Innocence

The End of Innocence

Allegra Jordan. Sourcebooks Landmark, $24.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4926-0383-2

This engaging debut from Jordan tells the love story of two college students who pursue their romance as World War I begins. At a party, Wils Brandl meets Helen Brooks, an aspiring writer from a prominent New England family, and immediately gets on her bad side by criticizing one of her poems. Meanwhile, Wils's rakish cousin Riley pursues Helen romantically, despite rumors that he's engaged to a woman in England. This is to Wil's chagrin, as he begins to fall for Helen himself. Both Wils and Helen are tormented by entitled fellow student Arnold Archer, whose politician father hopes to rise to a position in Congress on a wave of anti-German sentiment. Archer stirs up suspicion that Wils is a spy for the Kaiser who is currently waging war in Europe. As the inevitable happens and Wils and Helen fall in love and marry, Wils is summoned back to Europe where he fights on the side of the Germans, while Riley fights for the British. Jordan does a terrific job of contrasting the superficial formalities of the initial chapters depicting New England social life with the grueling realities of life in the trenches. Also on display is her knack for taking what at first seem like throwaway or background details and making them central to the story's last third, set in Boston following the Great Depression. (Aug.)