Monday, July 28, 2014

World War I in fiction

One hundred years ago today saw the beginning of the First World War. Let's remember this war and the sacrifice of our soldiers in these novels reflecting Canadian men's and women's experiences in this world altering conflict.

The Gunner by Paul Almond

"Eric Alford's safe and romantic life on the peaceful Gaspe Coast is shattered by his decision to follow his elder brother John (the Pilgrim and The Chaplain) into the 1914-18 cataclysm of death and destruction known as the "Great War for Civilisation". By his thundering Howitzer, Gunner Alford assaults the Hun through every major Canadian battle of WWI: Ypres, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, Hill 70, The Somme, and "The Hundred Days" that ended the conflict. A developing romance with a lovely Londoner is cut short by a German shell. Evacuated to a Rouen field hospital, he is surrounded by hellish wounds: blindness, amputations, and gas-inflicted horrors. Finally, back in Blighty among other shell-shock victims, he recovers and returns to his Gaspe home, bereft of his London love and changed forever." publisher

The Cartographer of No Man's Land by P.S. Duffy

"Nova Scotia, 1916. Angus MacGrath, a skilled sailor and navigator, is lost—caught between a remote wife, a disapproving father, and a son seeking guidance. An ocean away from his coastal village, missing is Ebbin Hant, Angus's adventurous brother-in-law and best friend. Ebbin's unknown fate sets angus on an uncharted course with profound consequences for those he loves and those he comes to love. In search of his own purpose and hoping against all odds to find Ebbin, Angus defies his pacifist upbringing and enlists. Assured a safe job as a military cartographer in London, he is instead assigned to the infantry and sent to the blood-soaked mud of the front-line trenches in France, where he begins his search. At home his young son, Simon Peter, once wide-eyed about the war—clipping stories and sneaking propaganda—must navigate uncertain loyalties in a village succumbing to war fever." publisher

Freddy Frieda Goes to War: a labrador native's story by Earl B. Pilgrim

"Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, the great Northern Doctor, arrived in Hopedale, Labrador, in August 1915. It was his last trip before going to war as a medical doctor for the British army in a field hospital in France. While in Hopedale, he met Freddy Frieda, a young Inuit hunter who could speak the German language fluently. Grenfell recruited Freddy for the Newfoundland Regiment and had him sent to England to train as a spy. This is the story of what happened to Freddy in the First World War. It's a story that has never been told before." Discover

Passchendaele: the novel by Paul Gross

"Sergeant Michael Dunne of the 10th Canadian Infantry Battalion has survived some of the worst fighting of the Great War. Wounded on the Western Front, he returns home to Calgary, a broken man suffering from neurasthenia and facing trial as a deserter should he ever attempt a return to the battlefield. In Calgary, he finds a complicated love with Sarah Mann, a nurse dismissed from her position because of her German ancestry. Sarah is struggling to care for her chronically ill younger brother, David, and is devastated when he finds someone to lie on his medical certificate so that he can enlist in the war. Though Michael is haunted by his memories of the battlefield, out of duty and love he follows David to the Front. Neither of the two men knows what lies ahead." publisher 

The Brothers Keepers: the Great War odyssey of Sable MacInnes and his brothers by John E. (Ted) MacNintch

"The Brother Keepers" is a sweeping epic of Sable MacInnes and his brothers who bond during the escapades of youth in bucolic, Nova Scotia, each designated as his brother's keeper by their Baptist Minister father "The Old Gent." Sucked into the vortex of the Great War, sniper Sable, his stretcher-bearer/piper brother Ian and their infantryman brother, Fraser, struggle through the horrors of the major battles of human attrition, witnessing history first hand as soldiers of the Canadian Corps, one of the most elite fighting formations of shock troops of the Western Front." Discover

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