Time for an experiment. Here is my first book review on this blog. This isn’t a critique, more a set of notes to remember what I got from the book and which bits I liked.
It’s strength, I think, lies in the depiction of life in the trenches in France and Belgium during the first world war, and in particular the first person description of the Battle of the Somme. This is the middle section of the book. It’s prefixed by a description of life in the same area of Northern France before the war (in 1911) and in the latter stages intertwined with the story of the main character’s grand-daughter.
The main message I got from this book is that regardless of life before the war those that take part in it are forever changed by their experiences, and usually not for the better. Particularly telling was the casual description of the lives of the soldiers after the war. A lot more could have been said, and the author could have omitted the first and last parts and still had a very good novel. On the whole the three facets of the story work well together and remind the reader that despite it’s terrible impact we do recover from war. Which is about as upbeat a message as you can get from this subject matter.