4 out of 5
This story about how the haunting nature of World War One permeated all generations after it and the everlasting scars that the war left behind follows Jessica Melville and Oscar Greenwood (née Grunewald) as they navigate the pseudo-purgatory that encased Europe immediately following 1918. Being the same age as the boys who fought, Jessica and Oscar are surrounded by the ghosts of war. Jessica finds solace in the London nightlife, but reminders of the dead eventually seep into even those dingy underground rooms. Oscar, always the intellect, feels it to be his duty to continue the work that the dead were robbed of before an intense love affair distracts him from his studies. Clark writes dialectic turns of phrase that are at times captivating, at others awkward, replicating actual speech well. In her surprising word choices that create a rich and melodious prose, Clark expresses a depth of understanding for the youth of this period who were left behind as the war raged on the continent that is rarely matched. Though the beginning did not metamorphose well into the ending—Oscar, in particular, seamlessly transformed from an incredibly frail, perhaps even obsessive, child into a largely faultless Prince Charming in his adulthood—the experience of reading We That Are Left was quite pleasant in its entirety. Fans of Downton Abbey should not hesitate to pick this up as a balm for their withdrawal, as Clark offers another look into the worlds of upper- and middling-class England during the war years that is perhaps more realistic and definitely juicier.