Updated: Jul 12
Take a look at this book *slams a tear-stained copy of In Memoriam by Alice Winn on a table*
It rather looks familiar doesn't it? It looks like it's been copied somewhere, from the prose, the heart-wrenching story, to its cover. I can't exactly remember where I read it from ... but ... wait ... wait ... I think I remember now ... I think I've figured it out ... I think ... I think it's the book of the year 😌✨
This is a STUPENDOUSLY BRILLIANT DEBUT by an author (a debut!!! the talent is insane) that I was too stunned and speechless to even write a review as soon as I was done with it. I have never felt a hallowness evoked by a brimming mix of emotions since watching Interstellar by Christopher Nolan. Sure, there might be better books out there that I have not heard or seen, or perhaps there are those who would disagree, but this particular ✨masterpiece✨ has easily taken the top spot as one of the best books that I have ever read, if not the best book to ever grace my existence. Am I exaggerating? I might be carried away by recency bias or possibly by emotions that prompted me to write this, but I need you to take this seriously and BELIEVE when I tell you that this book will IMPACT you in many ways.
First, the story mainly follows two young boys, Ellwood and Gaunt, who have been in love since they came to know each other in childhood. However, in a time (1900s) when homosexuality was perceived as a sin, neither of these boys have professed their love, hence delivering a story brimmed with angst and yearning. If there was a pair of characters I can closely attribute the enduring love and friendship that they have, it'd probably be that of Jem and Will from The Infernal Devices. Also, the miscommunication trope reminded me so much of Normal People by Sally Rooney (but obviously one written for the gays) that it had me screaming at my phone telling them TO JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER, knowing full well that the extent of their admission remains safely caged within quotes of Tennyson and Thucydides.
Second, the non-linear storytelling from Ellwood and Gaunt's boarding school shenanigans to the frontline of trench war is one of the many aspects that I loved about this book. It was effective to show the depth of Elly and Gaunt's relationship as it was central to the story, and only through expert hands could one have dealt with the complexity of their dynamic, which Alice Winn did impressively for a debut.
Third, with our protagonists living their academic lives in an English boarding school, there is no doubt that dark academia fans would revel on the tone and setting of In Memoriam. From pursuance of academic excellence to secret club meetings, the mischevious pranks, scandalous brawls, and rendevous among the boys reminded me of two films from the renowned genre: Dead Poets Society (1989, dir. Peter Weir) and Tolkien (2019, dir. Dome Karukoski); albeit In Memoriam differs from them due to its darker undertones.
Lastly, the prose. The beautiful, poetic prose *chef's kiss*. Writing the dehumanizing aspects of war through the eyes of Elly and Gaunt added layers and perspective to their relationship. Through Alice's impactful prose depicting the harrowing and gruesome trench war, she uses it to reveal the endurance of youth at that time period and the complexity and depth of love shared by two fractured souls wading through the cruelty and adversities of it all.
With all that said, In Memoriam by Alice Winn is a timeless, masterful classic that I will not stop recommending for years to come.