While Joana, Emilia, and Florian have stories full of heartbreak and sorrow, the fourth, Alfred is best described as putrid. The more I read in his point-of-view, the more creepy he became. He is the epitome of a young man who, in his own mind, is special and it is everyone else who is wrong because they are unable to see it. He is entitled and lazy, finding a myriad of ways to avoid the work required of the other soldiers. He becomes infuriated when others do not recognize how wonderful he is. There is an extra, shiver-inducing, layer in his "letters" to a young woman at home that he was clearly obsessed with and who, expectantly, did not share his feelings. The fact that I am writing this almost a month after reading the book and still want to strangle Alfred myself is a testament to what a well written character he is.
There are several scenes that were difficult (especially as a mother) to read. These usually involved children. There were some heart-wrenching moments for our main characters and their friends, but also a number that happened in the background, in a mere line or two, and had nearly as much impact. The story is told through the eyes of our four main characters and each of the sections is rather short. This keeps the plot moving quickly and allows each character's secrets to be revealed slowly. I was, however, a little disappointed in the ending. It didn't seem as developed as it could have been and was overly sweet, given the circumstances.
Bottom Line: Recommending this book for all my historical fiction fans.