Showing 1 - 2 of 2 annotations associated with Mason, Daniel
- Field, Steven
Summary:When The Winter Soldier opens, Lucius Kszelewski, youngest son of a patrician Polish family living in Vienna, is on a train bound in the dead of winter for a field hospital in the Carpathian Mountains. It is 1915, and Austria-Hungary is at war with Russia. Lucius, a medical student, has completed only six semesters of medical school, but World War I has intervened, and due to a shortage of physicians in the army the government has decreed that students may graduate early, become doctors, and immediately be commissioned. Lucius has done so and is on his way to Lemnowice, a Galician village, where he believes he will work with other physicians and finally learn to be “a real doctor.”
When he arrives, he finds that the hospital is an expropriated village church overrun by rats and ravaged by typhus, and he is the only physician. The hospital is run by a nun, Sister Margarete, assisted only by orderlies, and the patient load runs the gamut from fractures and gunshot wounds to gangrenous legs and massive head trauma. The front is only a few kilometers away, and the wounded arrive continuously; the quiet and formal Sister Margarete confidently and surreptitiously guides him through rounds, surgeries, and battlefield medicine. Lucius is initially wary of her, perhaps a bit awed by her, and ultimately falls in love with her.
The transforming event is the arrival of the winter soldier, Jozsef Horvath, brought in from the snow mute and shell-shocked, but with no visible wounds. Lucius is fascinated by diseases of the brain and mind, and this patient presents a tremendous challenge. Lucius is sure that Horvath has “war neurosis,” what the British physicians of the time were calling shell shock and what we today would call PTSD, and he is determined to understand and heal him. Lucius and Margarete make slow progress with their patient, but his attempts to care for Horvath have unintended effects, and Lucius must then deal with the consequences of his actions.
The war, and the hospital routine, go on. One day, while Lucius and Margarete are relaxing in the woods, Lucius asks her to marry him. Margarete runs off, and Lucius returns to the village, but Margarete is not there. While Lucius and the staff search for her, Lucius gets lost; he stumbles onto a battlefield and is dragooned into service with a regiment of the Austrian infantry. He escapes and tries to make his way back to the field hospital, and to Margarete, but Lemnowice has fallen to the Russians. The hospital has been evacuated—and Margarete has disappeared. Lucius’ search for her will take him across the war-torn remnant of the Empire.
- Shafer, Audrey
Edgar Drake, a forty-one-year-old English piano tuner, accepts a commission from the 1886 British War Office to tune an Erard grand piano located in a colonial military outpost in Mae Lwin commanded by Surgeon-Major Anthony Carroll. Edgar leaves the squalor, fog and drizzle of London, as well as his middle class life and his wife Katherine, childless for eighteen years, for a journey by boat, train, carriage and horse to the exotic, intoxicating beauty of Burma.
En route, Edgar is surrounded by stories--a tale by the deaf Man With One Story, rumors about the legendary, eccentric Carroll's peace-making with the local Shan via music and cultural exchange, and socio-historical treatises about the Burmese, internecine wars, and British imperialism. The journey becomes a search for the meaning of home and purpose in Edgar's life. It is an adventure far beyond his prior imaginings and dreams.
The clash of cultures, British and Burmese, civilian and military, wealthy and poor, rule-bound and individualistic, is explored throughout the text. For example, a tiger hunt led by several British officials ends in disaster. Edgar meets Burmese culture on both grand and personal scales: street theatre; appealing, poverty-stricken children; the garb and cosmetics of various tribes; and, ultimately, the allure of Khin Myo, an educated Burmese woman who guides him to Mae Lwin and Carroll.
Carroll, a renaissance physician with a Victorian fervor for botanical and medicinal classifications and investigations, asks Edgar to assist him in his clinic. Common infectious diseases are diagnosed and treated by this forward-thinking physician, and he also performs finger amputations on the mangled hand of a boy without benefit of anesthetic. Other maladies are treated with local remedies and prayer. Meanwhile the delirium of malarial fever descends on Edgar.
Edgar does finally meet and treat the ailing, badly out-of-tune Erard piano. Edgar's expertise is required--his aural excellence and perfect pitch, his delicate yet callused hands, and his willingness to be innovative in the repair of a bullet hole. But what Edgar cannot be prepared for--intrigue and deceptions, fascination with the lush beauty of Burma, and his own shifting priorities and secret longings--is ultimately what sets his fate.