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Covenant with Death Paperback – 21 Apr 1980


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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd; Arrow Edition, 1980. edition (21 April 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099106906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099106906
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 10.9 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 741,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Laden with knowledge yet sparely written, Covenant with Death is the work of an author immersed in the lives of those who fought (The Times) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

Discover one of the most authentic, moving and gripping portrayals of British soldiers ever written. This classic novel of the First World War appears in a new edition for the centenary of the conflict. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By MJC on 13 Oct. 2003
Format: Paperback
Many people rightly praise Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front" as one of the greatest anti-war books ever. This novel should be up there with it. A story of the 1914 jingoism, the 1915 champing at the bit and finishing with the carnage of 1916 this book traces through the eyes of a young professional man the end of an era. It's not just a book of war, it shows the breaking down of boundaries and traditions too. Seven eighths of this book is written describing the lives, love, hopes and fears of a band of men... the last eighth blows them away like leaves in an autumn gale. If you only ever read one WW1 work of fiction, please read this.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Alan Fender on 15 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
I remember reading Covenant with death years ago in the 1960's. It has always had a profound effect on me. The main character Mark Fenner, enlisted as a 'ranker'.Quite unassuming and self deprecating not taking life for granted almost missing out on love because of his self doubt about his qualities compared to his main love rival Frank Mason.
Fen is an ordinary chap, clearly intelegent but with an obvious unselfish instinct for self preservation putting others first many times. John Harris' portrait of CSM Bold is a classic. A man probably born a soldier fair but firm and from a 'difficult' start with Fenner clearly CSM Bold saw charismatic leadership potential in Fenner that Fenner didn't realise he had.CSM Bold reminds me of my fist drill Sergeant 'Tex' Freeborn. A fearsome looking drill Sergeant who one came to respect for his fairness.
All characters in the book are so alive and one feels one knows them persoally such is the skill of John Harris.There are no personal controversies the characters are real despite their idiosyncracies. They have fun and skylark about at times. They have a sense of what the 'big push'might be like. We of course know what it was truly like after the event. It is a novel but Jon Harris has brilliantly portrayed what it must have been like at the time. The promise of a war that would end by xmas 1914 but after two years of mud and carnage was still continuing on the Western front. The characters in the book are scathing and cynical not just about the Generals and politicians but also about the attitudes of some people back home.
Having forgotten about 'Covenant with death' from reading it in the '60's I happened across a copy in a second hand bookshop. I've read it a further 3 times in the past couple of years. It's a book I just feel part of.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By G. Johnson on 26 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
A very well researched book. Such an excellent story (almost an account) should never go out of print, and for that matter why hasn't it been made into a film.
Like everone else I intend to read this again in the future (it really is that good).
If you get a chance buy it, you won't be disappointed.
ps also please read First Day on the Somme by Martin Middlebrook
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Colin Rankin VINE VOICE on 11 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first read this book probably 40 years ago....I am now 61.
It portrays,unflinchingly,the worst day in the history of the British Army,along with the build up from a young man's enthusiastic enlistment in Kitchener's army.
1st of July,1916 on the Somme battlefield,amongst the blood red poppies,saw British casualties of 60,000 in one day.I do not know the number of dead but I have read that it is about a third.
This book vividly portrays the life of ordinary young men sucked into this awful war through jingoism and misplaced idealism up to the realities of that monstrous day.
John Harris,in his finest novel,leaves quite a legacy.Whatever way you may wish to interpret this book....jingoism,cowardice,heroism....love,even....just read it for it's sheer power.
A classic war novel.
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By J. Baldwin VINE VOICE on 2 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this magnificent novel, John Harris gives a remarkably sensitive account of the soldier's life in World War One. Written in the first person from the perspective of one soldier - Mark Fenner - Harris's writing is throughout spare and understated yet immensely poignant and powerful. In the story, much of the detail is factual. Harris describes the training and rapid maturation into manhood of a small group of volunteers until they are all but wiped out in an unsuccessful attempt to capture the village of Serre in the Great Push on July 1st 1916 – the Battle of the Somme.

However, Covenant with Death is not much about courage or valour. There is no glorification of war, nor even much of a tribute to the heroics of the participants. In fact, few of its 500 pages are devoted to the fighting at all. The book is instead an unsentimental yet profoundly 'human' story of life - and death - as experienced by ordinary soldiers and of their very natural fears as they are thrust into the conflict. The understated tone of the writing makes it all the more powerful.

Covenant with Death is a beautiful work of literature which has little of the cynicism about war commonly found in books about WW1. Instead, Harris paints a vivid picture of the unspectacular lives of individual soldiers, most of whom were innocent, decent, honourable young men who struggled to overcome their fears in their determination not to let their friends down.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Angel Silver on 2 July 2007
Format: Paperback
"Your generation was born to suffer in this war, but it's got to be won whoever falls, and we rely on you. Never mind your pals. Just keep going."

_________________________________________________

Fine words - and for a few hours the men believed them. Next day they were dead, torn to pieces by the machine guns in the first few minutes of the Battle of the Somme. This is the story of those men. The story of their courage, their trust, and their final betrayal.
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