It's amazing that this is true: a man, Barroux, happened to spot rubbish being thrown out of a house for clearing. In that pile was a diary from World War I. Stunning isn't it?
And this book is that diary. Barroux's childlike pictures for me capture the anonymous soldier's innocent outlook as he signs up and heads out to the coming war. The soldier's words are sparse - he's not a Wilfred Owen - but you constantly feel what he was feeling. And that is mainly exhaustion. He describes his marches, night watches, seeing victims of war fleeing. And this soldier is tired. You also see the war coming ever closer to him. First the rumour of it. Then the sound. Then evidence of bullet holes and women and children, to dismembered limbs and bombed-out towns and finally to conflict.
Through very few words we see war made real for an ordinary married man, who wants rest and home.
It's moving in its slightness.
Meant as a children's book and introduced by Michael Morpurgo it could be read by a confident 9+ year old, though I would warn parents/ teachers of a couple of disturbing images and one mention of "ladies of ill repute".
Could be used for school topics on WWI.
The end, so abrupt as its author left off writing does leave you wondering just what happened. As it should...
on 23 February 2014
I know this book is aimed at children, but I'm not a child (by any means) and I loved it.
Very poignant and thought provoking - we will never know who the Author of the original diary was, or what ever happened to him.
I especially liked the illustrations, added to the whole atmosphere of the book.
Treat yourself to this, enjoy it on a Gloomy Sunday afternoon, as I did, or at any other time really.
on 8 March 2014
There are lots of different books around about WW1 at the moment, but this is really special. Barroux apparently came across the diary of a soldier from the war, completely by chance, and has illustrated the man's words in sepia pen and ink in this graphic novel. The result is extraordinary - the man's words speak to us very clearly, and the illustrations add an intensity of emotion that's missing from his very matter of fact diary entries. Beautiful to look at, and an extraordinary testament to the experiences of ordinary men in the war. I can't recommend this highly enough.
on 9 June 2016
An unknown ? Everyman soldier......how sincere of heart, millions of human souls...they said the same thing to loved ones...from how many countries? ...when our leaders stand before statues, ..????????... like many who start a diary, you think? This will be great to look back on......but for this gentleman....like many of us ? You just get bored and forget about it.......I'd love to know the man lived a long life, but the reality of one of many gentle sincere souls who just got carried away by duty and national pride.....on behalf of??????....the history of humanity in 90 odd pages.....never again ?....star wars....idiots.!!!!!....those who run our world are the morons of the galaxy.........do you think aliens are a threat???? They must be laughing at that one. Line of fire + barroux great .
on 10 October 2015
Enjoyed reading this little book. What a find ! Wish I could find an old diary, shame the wtriter did not put his name to his work, but then he was fighting in one of the worst wars WW1. This Soldier speaks for all Soldiers. Cannot help but apeal to the heart. Nice addition of cartoon style drawings adds to atmosphere. I read this in one sitting to keep the mood. Recommend for anyone with an interest in history, war or diaries in general. Arrived within week of ordering, well packed. Highly recommend just for a read or to add to historic reference.
Apparently the artist Barroux found this diary of an unknown French soldier from WW1 as he was walking past a house having a clear out - the diary was amid the junk headed for a landfill! He took it home, illustrated the diary and this is the book: Line of FIre: Diary of an Unknown Soldier.
The diary covers the first two months of the conflict from France’s declaration of war to September 1914. The diary is sparse with only a line or two to describe the soldier’s day but, as Michael Morpurgo (author of War Horse) points out in his introduction, the soldier was no Sassoon or Owens, trying to make art from his experiences, he was simply describing his everyday lot. As a result we get a very clear-cut view of his day to day life.
The first half of the book reads a bit like a description of the world’s worst package holiday. The soldier signs up, is transported near the front to fight the Prussians, but spends most of the time doing exercises, digging trenches, and looking for food and a decent place to spend the night. He occasionally mentions his family and that he receives bad news and then good news from them but we never know exactly what that means.
Gradually he mentions scenes of bombed out towns, empty shells littering fields, impromptu graves, and the sounds and lights of explosions keeping him up at night, so we experience his progress getting closer to the front at the same pace that he does.
There’s a very humanistic scene when he finally sees battle and discovers he’s been shot in the arm. He holds out a bandage pack out to a fellow soldier he doesn’t know, who’s also not a medic, who immediately sees to his arm, even with shells and mortars flying around them. And yet its told in a very matter of fact tone which makes it all the more touching.
The diary ends abruptly in September 1914 with the soldier recovering from his wounds and feeling depressed that the German army has gotten so close to his home town. Did he die shortly after? Did he lose interest in keeping a diary? Did he see out the war and live happily ever after? We’ll never know. Barroux does mention that accompanying the diary was a notebook of songs that continues until May 1917 so, assuming it also belonged to the same soldier, perhaps the soldier made it that long.
Barroux’s art is quite child-like - triangles for noses, a dot and a line for eyes, blanks for mouths - and the pencil and ink sepia tone adds a poignant sense of time to it. I’ve never seen Barroux’s art before so I don’t know if he’s intentionally keeping things as spare as the writing but the style perfectly suits the material.
It’s 100 years ago this year that WW1 began and yet forgotten mementos from that war still pop up and its unknown ghosts continue to speak to us in voices as fresh and human as any you’d hear today. I wouldn’t say Line of Fire is an amazing first hand account of the war, mostly because of the brevity of the writing, but it is a good example of living history and it does remind us of the mundanity of war as much as its horrors. Line of Fire is a brief but insightful look into the day-to-day life of a WW1 soldier.